Scanning the World for Art

Patterson.blogArtist Talk: French-Malian photographer Aminata Dabo Saturday, April 26th from 6-8 p.m. at Shift Gallery

Two years ago as she was finishing her master’s degree in art history, Liz Patterson joined Shift for some hands-on experience in contemporary art.

Since then she’s curated two photography shows of her own selected artists, five shows for Shift members and has also acted as Shift’s ex-officio curator helping members edit their work, hang their shows and refine their presentations.

For Liz, these activities are just part of her multinational and multi-faceted entry into the art world–on a path that could lead to either a university teaching position or to work in a museum or major gallery–she’s open to all interesting pursuits.  Liz interned at Seattle Art Museum during the time of its recent and highly successful Picasso show.  She assisted Gage Academy’s curator and events coordinator produce large-scale events.  And, she interned at the Allied Arts Foundation, helping the agency process grant money.  She enjoyed it all.

But perhaps closest to her heart was her job last year teaching art history at Seattle University on Capitol Hill.  There she was able to teach three surveys of modernism classes and a special, upper level course on Cezanne, Picasso and Mondrian that paralleled a show on the emergence of the three giants that she saw at the Gemeente Museum in The Hauge.  That viewing was particularly thrilling for Liz because her master’s thesis was about the influences that helped “Cézanne become Cézanne.”

“I think I’ve always wanted to teach art history,” she said.  “I’ve felt really inspired by professors of art history and the way you’re able to quickly travel around the world in the classroom.  I just love that.  It’s inspired me to travel also.”  And she has.

Liz’s adventurous trip to Mali two years ago on the cusp of a coup d’état that felled the Malian government occasioned her and her boyfriend/traveling companion Bobby Young to meet Mali ex-patriot and burgeoning photographer and poet Aminata Dabo on a tiny boat ride they were all taking on the Niger river toward Timbuktu.  The three travelled together and Liz was able to watch Ami, who was raised in Paris, rediscover her birth country through the lens of her camera.  At the same time, Bobby, a DJ at Hollow Earth Radio, was recording the sounds, rhythms and music of Mali.

That experience has culminated in Liz’s current Shift show, Origins 11, which features both Ami’s photographs and poetry and Bobby’s Mali recordings.  It’s tagged as a “number two” exhibit because the show of Ami’s work first opened in Paris

On April 26, from 6 to 8 p.m., Ami herself will appear at the gallery, during her first trip to America, to give an artist’s talk. Bobby will also be present as well to play his sound and music compilations.   Liz is excited to end her show on this personal note because it fulfills her desire to honor the Malian people.

She had been struck by Ami’s confession that had she stayed in Mali, opportunities as a photographer would have been significantly limited.  Liz also found it fascinating, from interviewing Ami, that the artist told her she was able to overcome the idea of racism during her upbringing through the “colorless avenue” of reading.

Liz and Bobby are looking forward to reuniting with Ami, who they will be hosting and escorting around the region.

When she was in Mali, “I told Ami at the time I would really like to figure out a way to exhibit her photographs,” said Liz.  “So this is really incredible.  And I think Ami’s talk will be a fitting end to the show.”

Poems by Aminata Dabo
[Translations by Alisha Woo]

– Origines

Je t’ai fuie…haïe…peu comprise,

Tu m’as poursuivie, persécutée…sans succès,

Je t’ai enfouie au fond de mon être, Je t’ai oubliée. Tu m’a attendue,

Tu m’as laissé le temps de grandir, d’apprendre et de comprendre, Je suis revenue vers toi… à petit pas… tu m’as ouvert tes bras, Surprise j’ai été, par… ta générosité, ta sagesse. Ton amour…

Je ne savais pas que tu étais la réponse à mes questions.

Si j’avais su que tu serais ma paix. Mais je ne voulais rien savoir… car je pensais savoir… Je ne savais rien, J’ai tant erré, cherché en vain, Je ne regrette rien, car je vis à nouveau, Heureuse de t’avoir à mes côtés!

– Origins

I fled from you… hated you… didn’t understand you,

You followed me, persecuted me… unsuccessfully,

I buried you at the bottom of my being, I forgot you. You waited for me,

You gave me the time to grow, learn and understand. I came back to you… step by step… you opened your arms. I was surprised by your generosity, your wisdom. Your love…

I didn’t know that you were the answer to my questions.

If I had known that you would be my source of peace. But I didn’t want to know anything… because I thought I knew… I didn’t know anything. I wandered, searched so long in vain. I don’t regret anything, since I’m living again,

Happy to have you at my side!


– Mali

Mon Mali, mon hippo, pourquoi tant de maux dans si peu de mots? Pourquoi tant d agressivité et de violence à ton égard?

Mais qu’as tu fait de mal pour subir tant d’humiliations? Peut-être as-tu trop donné et qu’en récompense on te remercie en te détruisant.

Aujourd’hui tu continues de te battre contre tes vieux démons, qui refont surface, voulant revenir dans leurs tanières. Mais jamais tu ne leur laisseras ne serait-ce qu’un centième de chance d’y parvenir.

– Mali

My Mali, my hippo, why so much sorrow in so few words? Why so much aggressiveness and violence toward you?

But what harm have you done to suffer so much humiliation? Maybe you gave too much, and the only thanks you get in return is your own destruction.

Today you continue to fight against your ancient demons, which resurface, wanting to come back to their lairs. But you will never give them even the tiniest chance of succeeding.


– L’Esprit

Quand passons nous à l’acte? Décidons nous d’agir? De réaliser ces rêves et non plus les imaginer?

Quand sommes nous éveillés, quand sommes nous dans le rêve…? Est il si simple de sortir du labyrinthe? Simple non, possible OUI…

– Spirit

When will we take action? Decide to do something? Live these dreams instead of imagining them?

When are we awake, when are we dreaming? Is it so simple to escape the labyrinth? Simple no, possible YES…


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