Smile Politely

Artist at Work: Jason Patterson

Jason Patterson is a Midwestern American history artist located in Urbana. Working predominately in portraiture, his work objectively reviews The American Narrative.

His upcoming show “New Americans — Our Mutual Improment & Social Elevation” opens at Northwestern University’s Dittmar Gallery April 4th-May 11th. Through slavery, Black people were forced to play an integral role in the birth and cultivation of the United States. After the Emancipation Proclamation, the 13th, 14th & 15th Amendments or ‘Reconstruction Amendments,’ and the end of the American Civil War in 1865, the condition of slavery was replaced with cultural, economical, moral and legal oppression. One hundred and two years passed before significant, culturally-changing action was again exercised on the behalf of African Americans by the United States Federal Government — the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and The Voting Rights Act of 1965. Yet at the beginning of that century of struggle, there was a spark. A progression had started. A comprehension of personhood, citizenship, self worth and self respect had begun.

This series is a stylized, contemporary examination of images emerging from a specific period in American history — a collection of portraits rendered after 19th century tintypes, Daguerreotypes and ambrotypes. It intends to glorify that new age, focusing on the hope, and potential freedom and happiness many former slaves and previously freed Black citizens saw ahead of themselves after The Civil War. This work is not meant to tell a comprehensive history. It is an idealized history. A life that should have been opportune to all, but was only seen by few.

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