JAM | Jan 30, 2023

High Museum of Art names artist Ebony G. Patterson recipient of 2023 David C. Driskell Prize

/ Our Today

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Prize recognises Patterson’s contributions to the field of African American art

Patterson to be honoured at 18th annual Driskell Prize Gala on April 28

Artwork: Ebony G. Patterson, . . . they stood in a time of unknowing . . . for those who bear/bare witness, 2018, Handcut jacquard woven photo tapestry with glitter, appliques, pins, embellishments, fabric, tassels, brooches, acrylic, glass pearls, beads, and hand-cast heliconias

The High Museum of Art today (January 30) announced artist Ebony G. Patterson as the 2023 recipient of the David C. Driskell Prize in recognition of her contributions to the field of African American art. 

Awarded annually by the Museum since 2005, the prize demonstrates the High’s ongoing dedication to furthering artistic innovation and promoting research of African American artists and scholars.

Based in Kingston, Jamaica, and Chicago in the United States, Patterson is known for her multilayered works in a variety of media that contrast beautiful, lush imagery, color and texture with darker underlying themes addressing societal and political injustices.

Her complex compositions, which at first may appear celebratory, draw the viewer in to discover deeper truths relating to race-based class issues, social division and political violence. These interrogations explore the legacies inherent in postcolonial spaces, often memorialising and honouring the lives of those who have been deemed socially invisible or “unvisible”.

Her work has been featured in more than 50 solo and group exhibitions over the past 10 years and is included in the collections of distinguished institutions such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA); the National Gallery of Jamaica, Kingston; Perez Art Museum, Miami; Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others.

The High acquired her work ‘. . . they stood in a time of unknowing . . . for those who bear/bare witness’ (2018), which was presented in the exhibition ‘What Is Left Unspoken, Love’ (March-August 2022). Solo exhibitions of her work are forthcoming at the New York Botanical Garden and the Arnolfini Museum in Bristol, United Kingdom. She serves as co-artistic director of Prospect.6, slated to open in 2024, and she is the first artist to hold this position.

“Patterson’s striking work commemorates the lives and struggles of marginalised people throughout the world. In doing so, she asks viewers to consider tough questions regarding social and racial inequality globally,” said Rand Suffolk, Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., director of the High.

“We are honoured to recognise her important practice and considerable contributions to African American art with the 2023 Driskell Prize.”

Named for the renowned African American artist and art scholar, the Driskell Prize was established by The High in 2005 as the first national award to celebrate an early- or midcareer scholar or artist whose work makes an original and significant contribution to the field of African American art or art history.

Patterson will be honoured at the 18th annual Driskell Prize Gala at the High on April 28, at 7 pm, where her work will be recognised with a $50,000 cash award. Proceeds from the gala support the David C. Driskell African American Art Acquisition Restricted and Endowment funds. Since the prize’s inception, the funds have supported the acquisition of 53 works by African American artists for the High’s collection.

The selection process for the 2023 recipient of the Driskell Prize began with a call for nominations from a national pool of artists, curators, teachers, collectors and art historians.


Patterson was chosen from among these nominations by review committee members assembled by the High: Huey Copeland, associate professor of art history at the University of Pennsylvania and 2019 Driskell Prize recipient; Naima Keith, vice president of education and public programs at LACMA and 2017 Driskell Prize recipient; Richard Powell, professor of art and art history at Duke University; and two High Museum of Art curators, Stephanie Heydt (Margaret and Terry Stent curator of American art) and Katherine Jentleson (Merrie and Dan Boone curator of folk and self-taught art).

Patterson holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston, Jamaica, and a Master of Fine Arts in printmaking and drawing from the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

Ebony G. Patterson. (Photo by Frank Ishman)

Solo exhibitions of her work have been presented at Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago; Hales Gallery, New York; Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, North Carolina; Perez Art Museum, Miami; Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Museum of Art and Design, New York; Baltimore Museum of Art; Contemporary Art Museum St Louis; SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, Georgia; and Kunsthal Aarhus, Denmark. Her work is included in the much-acclaimed group exhibition ‘Forecast Form: Art in the Caribbean Diaspora, 1990s-Today’ (Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago), which will travel to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, in 2023 and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in 2024. Her artwork was also recently featured in the Liverpool Biennial (Liverpool, England, 2021) and the Athens Biennale (Athens, Greece, 2021).


Patterson taught at Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts and at the University of Virginia, was an associate professor of painting and mixed media at the University of Kentucky and was the Bill and Stephanie Sick Distinguished Visiting Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

In addition to the Driskell Prize, she has received an Alturas Foundation Grant (2020), the United States Artists Award (2018), a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant (2017), a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant (2015) and an Andy Warhol Foundation Grant, in collaboration with Small Axe (2014).

The 2023 Driskell Prize Gala will be cochaired by Brenda and Larry Thompson and tickets for the black-tie gala and secured by emailing [email protected] or calling 404-733-4562.


What To Read Next