On Friday, Feb. 2 the Blackburn Visual Arts Center (VAC) hosted a gallery show by artist Edna Patterson-Petty. Unlike most artists, Patterson-Petty’s art consists of fiber and fabric collages and is inspired by the African-American tradition of telling stories through quilting.
Patterson-Petty’s work is very humanitarian and almost always inspired by hot button issues. Her art has tackled topics like social awareness, women’s issues, race and ethnicity. Unfortunately, Patterson-Petty was unable to attend the event to discuss her pieces. In an interview with St. Louis area newspaper Alestle, Patterson-Petty said, “I think that I’m an abstract artist and I like working based on telling stories—my way of telling stories. If I’m affected by something that is social or political or whatever, I try to create based on how I feel. I try to find beauty in everything that I do. Living in East St. Louis… I try to create my own beauty in terms of things that are around me.”
In the same interview, Patterson-Petty talked about what art means to her, “To me, art is being able to take things that others throw away or discard and turn it into some things of beauty or some things of interest—just being able to take a mundane situation or a mundane thing and turn it into something viable and just give things life. It doesn’t mean the same thing to every person. Even though a lot of people are artists, our definitions are always different because it has to be from what it means to an individual. For me, it’s a lifeline. The best way to punish me would be to strip me of my creativity. To take it away from me and say I could never ever do it again, that would be like sudden death because that’s just how bad I need it in my life.”
Patterson-Petty graduated from SIUE in 1988 with a Master of Arts in Art Therapy and a Master of Fine Arts in Studio Art and went on to have a successful career as an artist. She has gone on to be featured in the St. Louis Art Museum, all the way to the American embassy in Pakistan. She is the recipient of the Grand Center Visionary Award and the NAACP arts award. Her work will be displayed in the VAC until Feb. 22.