Making Patterns Personal

Pattern is everywhere around us; in nature,in our bodies, in our dreams, in our behaviors, and in our memories. After years of being relegated to the derogatively meant “merely decorative,” increasing numbers of artists have turned to pattern with enthusiasm.

Galleries everywhere are blossoming with it. One might even see the popularity of exotically patterned and colored tattoos as part of the widespread contemporary trend. As a reflection of contemporary multiculturalism and the encouragement of diversity in Western societies, it is playing a part in the new discourse on what constitutes art as distinct from craft, as well as being one perspective in the ongoing multiplicity of approaches to making art in this century.

The idea for an exhibition originated in a conversation with artist Ellen Hill about the prevalence of pattern in contemporary art. As we developed the parameters for a show that would illustrate this trend in the Washington, DC, region, we began to think of pattern as both a visual concept and as a psychological or behavioral phenomenon that can be expressed through artistic means. We then invited a group of area artists working with pattern in a variety of two- and three-dimensional media to participate.

Blue Tempo by Susan GoldmanWe were interested in how an artist’s use of pattern might reveal something about his or her sense of identity, express cultural traditions, ethnic or racial origins, and family ties. Might it be used to express an opinion on political or scientific ideas, or a concern for the environment and its current problems? How can pattern communicate emotion and express meaning? Does it invite intimacy or does it tend to hold the viewer at a distance? Is it feminist, or connote feminism, or is it universal? Where does it fit in modern art history?

The 19-artist exhibition we put together clearly demonstrates the extensive and varied use of pattern in contemporary art. What is perhaps most striking is the way that each of the artists adopted pattern in a personally distinctive way—hence the show’s title.

—Claudia Rousseau, curator


Through November 25, 2015
King Street Gallery, The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation Arts Center
Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus

Personal Patterns is a 19-artist exhibition that demonstrates the extensive and varied use of pattern in contemporary art.

Artists represented: Sondra Arkin, Michele Banks, Jessica Beels, Joan Belmar, Shanthi Chandrasekar, Alonzo Davis, Helen Frederick, Susan Goldman, Amber Robles-Gordon, Pat Goslee, Elyse Harrison, Sean Hennessey, Ellen Hill, Matt Hollis, Bridget Sue Lamber, Jessica van Brakle, Carien Quiroga, Ellyn Weiss, Helen Zughaib.

Claudia RousseauClaudia Rousseau, PhD, has taught at MC since 2003. An internationally published scholar, she is also a recognized critic of contemporary art and a curator of art exhibits in the region. Dr. Rousseau is a member of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA). She serves as a panel member of the Public Arts Trust Steering Committee of the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, as well as the Art Review Panel at Maryland Park and Planning for public art.

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