When one of the world’s most well-known shoe designers, Christian Louboutin describes his passion for botanic gardens and landscape design, one is not surprised by his collaboration with the contemporary artist Ebony G. Patterson.
Having almost become a landscape designer, Christian shares a special affinity for gardens with Ebony. Patterson’s verdant creations caught the eye of the designer, who in turn, backed the Perez Art Museum (PAMM) exhibition during the past Miami Art Week 2018. Ebony also created a tapestry for Christian Louboutin’s boutique during the Miami Art Week.
Patterson, a Jamaican-born artist based in both the USA and Jamaica, considers herself primarily a painter. But she is also a mixed media artist who uses materials associated with wealth and beauty, and like Louboutin’s creations, they are layered with a dazzling array of flowers, glitter, lace, ribbons, and beads. Also, their audiences are drawn to both of their creations because of their dynamic use of colour, pattern, and texture.
In contrast to Louboutin, her subject matter explores tougher themes of intersection and collision that focus on, among other topics, global black youth culture, Jamaican society, class, race, and gender norms. Patterson’s art forces viewers to look beyond the bling and pageantry to confront unglamorous topics. Patterson’s pieces are visually stunning and complex and they entice us to examine the weighty messages the works contain. She combines themes of duality and dichotomy, beauty and brutality, myth and reality, and allows the artworks deeper meaning to slowly reveal itself to the viewer. She juxtaposes a wide variety of images and materials into one elaborate and seemingly pleasing image, but then one finds that their initial impression of peace quickly disappears and the beautiful images are actually disturbing and complicated.
1. Christian, is there a specific reason why this collaboration with Ebony is being shown during Art Basel in Miami? Why not another place or art fair?
CL : If there is one place that I love in Miami, it’s the Pérez Art Museum. And the reason is that most of their shows highlight Caribbean and South American art. The museum feels like a door to those places. I got to know the work of Ebony through my friend Kasseem Swizz Beatz who is a collector of her work. So it was really a very natural choice for her to be here at the Pérez Art Museum to exhibit her work.
2. Ebony, what is more important in your art, the idea, the concept or the execution?
EGP : I can’t separate these things. Ideas for me however are what begins the process. It helps me to determine what the best materials are for the idea. And even when I begin with some material, I am motivated by the ideas and so sometimes those materials shift or change as the idea continues to grow.
3. How do you choose to express your art? Is it something that comes to you naturally depending on the subject? Or is it the medium and the craftsmanship that inspires you first?
EGP : My process is incredibly intuitive as I’m working through the ideas, as I learn more about the process and the ideas, things shift. Sometimes things may shift because I learn something new or something more from looking or reading. While in the studio, I am always searching for the best possible ways to communicate with and sometimes to an audience.
4. How would you describe the beauty in your work?
EGP : For me beauty is a tool or a device and trap. As visual creatures living in an incredibly visceral visual moment, I try to consider the ways in which I can use beauty to lure, seduce, and trap the viewer. I am hoping that by doing so I can give the viewer a moment of pause to consider those who are often marginalized and dismissed due to race and social standing. I’m interested in how to use this strategy, the allure, and the trap, to force an acknowledgment by those who do not see them worthy of acknowledgment or dignity.
5. Do you think that fashion is the popularization of art, and that fashion always takes ideas from art?
EGP : I’m not sure that it is or isn’t. I think they differ and cross paths, and there are mutual dialogues that take inspiration from each other.
6. Christian, in what way is art present in your everyday life besides the collections you design?
CL : I think it’s a bit like the air we breath. Art is everywhere and art is a way of looking at things. It’s not necessarily photography or a frame but we are all creations of art. Even peoples voices are a form of art. Art is sort of everywhere, you just have to be able to appreciate and feel it.
7. Contemporary art was hardly taken seriously 20 to 30 years ago, but now people are aware of the art of today. In the last 10 years the context has changed a lot because it has become such a market-driven business. In your opinion, will contemporary art become more mainstream in the future?
CL : Since a very young age, I’ve seen many artists’ career go back and forth and even disappear. And I think that maybe today, there are too many artists and too many galleries and that has changed the game. Today it’s all really associated with money. It always was to a certain extant but now it’s beyond. But at the end of the day, if the art does not provoke an emotion, or surprise or evoke a sense of awkwardness because you feel you don’t understand it, then it just doesn’t work for me as art. The only thing that works for me in contemporary art is when you are really emotionally taken by its presence. The rest doesn’t matter.
8. What you are saying is also what you stand for as a designer. Everything you have created hasn’t ever really followed any rules since the beginning; it feels like all your decisions are made out of passion and feeling.
CL : This comes from the fact that I am an independent company and I do not have to follow rules and I can fully focus my creations out of pure inspiration.
9. You mentioned that you wanted to be landscape designer so can we say that if Christian Louboutin would not have been the worlds most famous shoe designer, then would he be the most famous landscape artist?
CL : I truly love landscape design and in fact I studied it from 1989 until 1991 and made numerous landscape projects afterward. But the truth is that as a landscape designer you need to be very patient and back then in my twenties, time seemed much longer and my patience did not last long enough to follow that passion. But these days, I keep on building gardens and landscapes for myself in my house in the south of Portugal.