An attraction to glitter is reason enough to visit Ebony G. Patterson’s exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), ‘Dead Treez’. It is not reason enough to stay. Instead, once drawn in by the artist’s extravagant use of sparkle and shine, the subjects of her eight pieces take full hold of one’s attention, emitting a light all their own. For the Kingston, Jamaica/Lexington, KY-based artist’s first solo New York museum show, she has created seven jacquard photo tapestries (displayed as two single tapestries, one diptych, and one triptych) and a sculptural installation. The tapestries depict Black people who have fallen victim to brutality and murder in cases that have been underreported in major media outlets; the installation a group of mannequins covered in floral print fabrics and Dancehall-inspired fashion; they are all vibrantly, joyously coloured, complete with flowers, tassels, bows, and tons of glaring glitter.
The mannequins come first. Atop a four-foot tall rectangular pedestal are ten life-size figures (seven adult men, one boy, and two small babies) whose traditional black or white, plastic charm has been replaced with loudly coloured fabrics patterned similarly to the wallpaper found in a Provincetown antique shop. Some have small pastel roses while others have Polka dots, palm leaves, or Damasks. These skins are each distinct but altogether similar in vibrancy and flair. On top of these they wear clothing typically found in the Jamaican Dancehall scene - tightly tailored suits with cropped dress pants, three-button vests over shirts with Elizabethan collars, stylized fedoras, Oxford dress shoes, and elaborate jewellery. They stand above the viewer, gathered in a group and frozen in proud, bold poses. The roses, carnations, and daffodils that hang down on strings around them complete the staging—an editorial fashion ad or surrealist window display or a corner of fabulous people at a party. Of this work, the museum writes, “Meant to present a complex vision of masculinity, the installation is a meditation on dancehall fashion and culture, regarded as a celebration of the disenfranchised in postcolonial Jamaica.”  Through the kaleidoscopic quality of their clothing and fabric skins, their confident poses, and their height on the pedestal, Patterson represents the sense of pride that can be found in aesthetics and celebrates this as a political act.
Beside the installation is a gallery filled with the glittering tapestries. Most rest on the floor, referencing textiles, rugs, Minimalist sculpture, while one hangs traditionally on the wall. At first glance, they almost hurt to look at, with all of the glitter reflecting the museum’s lights and the bright colours vibrating off one another; However, once the eye becomes more adjusted, one begins to see the subjects more clearly. Mixed amongst the collages of flowers, pieces of jewellery, and colourful, abstract patterns of shapes and lines, are figures. The wall text—written by Patterson—explains, “An image was circulating on social media of a three-year-old child who was murdered in a tenement housing project. Bystanders took pictures and shared them with the intent to raise awareness. I think there is something very strange that happens with people who choose to share images like that. We no longer think about the individual; it’s not a person, it’s an image, it’s an object…The catch-22 is that if we didn’t have social media, these people—these invisibles—would not be visible, we would not know about them.” 
By rendering these invisibles - these Black bodies that have been subject to extreme violence without nearly enough apology or reform - visible through a labour intensive practice of tapestry-making, which includes jacquard weaving, hand-sewing, collaging, glitter-ing, and more - Patterson subverts the logic of viral imaging. She takes these quick snaps, which were shared and distributed even more quickly through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and gives them care, translating them into detailed, illuminated, and hand-held objects. Like the mannequins, there is a certain pride in their display. The flowers and adornments memorialise while the excitement of the colours and glitter celebrate. Rather than abandoning the image altogether - for its problematic recent history with social media and the representation of race and race-related crimes online - Patterson uses the image in politically efficacious ways, situating aesthetics as one of many possible tools for protest.
The exhibition closes with ‘…buried again to carry on growing…’, an accompanying installation of pieces from the museum’s collection of jewellery sporadically placed amongst fake plants, patterned fabrics, and more of Patterson’s deceased figures. Again, Patterson plays with an aesthetic of contrast: she takes bright colours, energetic patterns, and opulent jewellery and fashion, and juxtaposes them against subjects who have experienced some of the extreme violence definitive of our contemporary moment. Rather than read this is an attempt to make bearing witness to violence more palatable, I found that the contrast between the aesthetic and the subject it is meant to represent charged the image with political valency. By adorning her tragic narratives with colour, glitter, and flair—to a ridiculously, wonderfully tacky degree—she complicates the role of representation, demanding a narrative that is nuanced, contradictory, even messy.
 Museum of Arts and Design, “Ebony G. Patterson,” accessed December 8, 2015: http://madmuseum.org/exhibition/ebony-g-patterson.