Edna Patterson-Petty: fabric, quilts, community and her creative journey

One of Edna Patterson-Petty's Fabric Art Pieces, Eye on the Sparrow. "I love it because keeping your eye on the sparrow is about staying focused and not wavering because of many of life's situation," she says about the piece.

Edna Patterson-Petty, a multimedia and fabric artist, art therapist, and SIUE alumna, has recently published a new catalogue called Fabrics Work: My Creative Journey. The catalogue features images of some of her works, including the fabric art of her famous Obama Series.

Her catalogue features her fabric art creations that present gorgeous designs with photographs and bright, rich fabrics that speak of liberation, of soul, of empowerment, of struggle, of life. Patterson-Petty’s fabric art stirs the spirit with its presentation of the human condition, yet leaves one optimistic within the tapestries of texture, curves, and colors that express hope.

Patterson-Petty’s creative journey, expressed in both her art and in her biography, experiences, and overall vision, is a voyage that can inspire both artists and art admirers alike. Her life as an artist has taken her many places and has seen rich development within her own community, which is East St. Louis.

“I am from an impoverished area that most people have very few kind words for…” She writes in Fabrics Work. “But I know the cultural richness and history of the community, and that is instrumental in nurturing my creativity.”

Patterson-Petty has wanted to be an artist since she was a child, even though she “did not know the term artist and what it entailed” as a child. Growing up, she always found herself creating something and expressing her artistic abilities, especially in making quilts with her mother. Her mother would make quilts for her family using old clothing, curtains, and other cloths, and this sparked her artistic vision.

Edna Patterson-Petty

The art that Patterson-Petty creates is often from recycled objects or from what others may view as trash. Like her mother, she gets second use out of clothing, curtains, and old cloths by transforming them into art. She makes fabric art for others using this technique as well.  When people request that she make them a quilt, she asks for old pieces of clothing or blankets to incorporate into the piece, making it a work of shared vision between artist and quilt owner.

Besides creating art for others, Patterson-Petty also counsels others an art therapist. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Art Therapy, which she earned at SIUE along with her Bachelor’s degree and second master’s degree, both in Studio Art. Her formal education gave her the opportunity facilitate art therapy programs that help people grapple with deep emotional issues, an opportunity she describes as both daunting and gratifying.

“The most rewarding as well as challenging aspect of art therapy is helping individuals navigate their lives. It is like re-parenting a person that has already been raised,” she explains.

Patterson-Petty helped several young women confront self-esteem and self-worth issues that usually sprung from sexual, physical, and/or emotional abuse while working at the Lessie Bates social service agency in East St. Louis.

Many of these women whom she counseled were mothers, and she additionally facilitated positive parent/child interaction. In aiding women to love and respect themselves and have nurturing relationships with their children, Patterson-Petty felt that her role in the lives of the young women was maternal.

“I became the symbolic mother…being skillful not to have clients become dependent upon me, but to [instead] trust themselves and want more for themselves and their children,” she says, “[helping them] to uncover their strengths and build upon them, to not dwell upon their weaknesses…but to relish in what they can become, what they can change about themselves.”

Being an art therapist has given Patterson-Petty insight and inspiration that has helped her create fabric art such as In My Shadow and A New Day, both of which center on struggles with self-esteem and personal insecurity. Just as creating art is an essential part of her personality, helping people is essential to her art.

“I enjoy helping people, and my own personal art always gave me a way of working out and through emotional baggage that is always picked up from working with various individuals,” she says.

Patterson-Petty believes that being an artist lies in steadfastly engaging in creating art and not being distracted by any societal or social pressures to do otherwise. To be an artist, she feels that one must truly know oneself and have peace with the self, much like what she has taught to those she counsels with art therapy. She advises anyone, whether attending art therapy or wanting to be an artist, to examine the self because only then can art be authentic and truly therapeutic.

“Trusting self is very important…[as well as] knowing one’s self-worth and finding balance in one’s life,” she explains.

Edna Patterson-Petty is an artist who indeed knows herself but also knows others. As an artist and art therapist, she has reconciled the knowledge of self to help those in her community and any viewers of her art looking for inspiration to do the same.

Fabrics Work: My Creative Journey provides just a sampling of many of Patterson-Petty’s works. Some of her fabric art as well as mosaics can be seen in many public places such as the Missouri Historical Society, the East St. Louis school district, the Metro Link stop at Washington Park, Lambert Airport, SIUE’s East St. Louis campus, and around the SIUE main campus. One can also see plaque dedicated to Patterson-Petty in Peck Hall on the SIUE campus, as she is a member of the Wall of Fame.

To view her work, her catalogue can be found on Amazon, and she will additionally be exhibiting her work at the Center of Creative Arts (COCA) in St. Louis from November 30, 2012 to January 13, 2013.

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