Meet the Artist at the AcA

by Sylvie Contiguglia for Art E-Walk

Reflection on the past? Prelude to a new beginning? A mid-career retrospective can be daunting for the artist, for the visitor too, often exposed to lengthy wall texts and a line up of works deemed relevant to the artist’s career, displayed chronologically. None of this for Stephanie Patton: Comfort Zone 1993 – 2021, a lively, fun show, radiating the multi-talented artist’s warm and caring personality. Born in New Orleans, she graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and moved North to receive a Master of Fine Arts in photography from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She then spent some time in New York City and studied vocal and comedic performance at the New SchoolUpright Citizens Brigade and Gotham Writers’ Workshop. In 2001 Patton’s Southern roots brought her back to Lafayette where she is teaching and pursuing her international career. The exhibition curated by Jaik  Faulk at the Acadiana Center for the Arts reflects the artist’s eclectic background and includes sculptures, paintings, iconic wall pieces, photographs, videos and installations. 

stephanie patton

A pair of bronzed shoes set on a mirrored pedestal stands out in the middle of the vast main gallery partitioned for the show. The grandmother’s empty shoes transformed into a keepsake like baby booties, allude to the process of reversion to infancy in old age. We can even look at ourselves while contemplating the piece! Like a memento mori, it also reminds us of the inevitability of death. Bronzed SAS Shoes, 2008, leads to two intimate spaces where, going back in time, we can get acquainted with the artist’s alter ego, Renella Rose Champagne. A kitschy installation, a video of the artist performing as a (struggling country) singer, a photograph of Olympia-Patton (fully clothed) or disguised as a clown, are among a collection of items aligned along the walls. Advertisements for purses, shoes, compact discs, undergarments, magnets for refrigerators… Renella embraces pop. Like the girl next door she dreams of a traditional wedding and revels in the month-long preparations, documents lists of guests, collects newspaper clips and photographs. Boisterous, exuberant, bubbly,. 

What better transition to Patton’s next period than Toasty Warm Inside, 2008, a full-length luminous self-portrait? It seems that about ten years ago her career took a turn with new conceptual works. The spacious display allows to contemplate meditative pieces, monochrome white landscapes made of vinyl filled with batting like Revolve, 2019. Quilting evokes a domestic life, love being a required ingredient to perform the labor intensive task. Fluffy like clouds, soft like blankets, the soothing pieces are an invitation to rest and heal our minds. Another “series” involves mattress as a media for calligraphically perfect designs of interjections found throughout the show: Us, 2021, Join, 2020, You (Blue), 2020, can be interpreted according to context or mood. “You” can evoke a tender whisper in one’s ear or an outburst of anger.

Mostly inspired by idioms found in her grandmother’s mail catalog, Patton’s videos complete the review of thirty years of her career. Making lemonade from lemons in Heal, 2011, walking on eggshells for Diffuse, 2008, or ripping off band-aids from her face in Conquer, 2013, Patton manages to interpret popular maxims through conceptual ideas, with a twist of humor. The flawless videos confirm the artist’s attention to detail and her talent as a performer.
Dream, 2011, a video about “memory, death and the afterlife” in which the artist sings the famous song “Dream a Little Dream of Me” and a bird view of the show from the mezzanine complete the visit. 
Comfort zone filled with wit and loving care.