Collection Artwork
Michael Patterson-Carver (born Chicago, Illinois, 1958)
ink, pencil, watercolor on paper
paper size: 15 x 20 in.
frame size: 17 x 22 x 1 1/2 in.
Gift of Ann and Mel Schaffer Family Collection
Inscribed, dated, and signed, lower right: BOSTON / ’09 MICHAEL PATTERSON-CARVER

Installation views

Object Labels

Public pressure is always required for anything to change. So what’s missing from the equation, really, is you.
—Michael Patterson-Carver

The cartoonish figures march to demand government support for employment and to celebrate LGBTQ+ identity. Their bodies are stiff, detached; they’ve done this before. Yet they smile. Self-taught artist and political activist Michael Patterson-Carver explains, “In order to succeed at anything the first step you must take is to BELIEVE. This is the reason that everyone in my demonstration scenes is smiling—they are confident of success.”

Patterson-Carver grew up in Chicago during the 1960s civil rights movement, which was formative in his political views. Injustices of all kinds—racial, social, environmental—become subjects for his work. Even if the world has not always pivoted on the side of justice, he reminds us to protest with peaceful optimism.

From the exhibition: Give a damn. (June 30 – September 30, 2018)

Michael Patterson-Carver portrays actual protests in portraits of both historical and contemporary moments of peaceful activism. They highlight both the injustices that surround us and the hope for recourse by everyday citizens in a democracy. In the faces if the protestors we see both unwavering determination and optimism for the possibility of change. A self-taught artist born and raised in Chicago, Patterson-Carver spent several years in and out of homelessness. In 2007, he was selling his drawings on the street in Portland when Harrell Fletcher, a prominent artist and theorist, happened by. The chance encounter led to Patterson-Carver’s introduction into the international art scene, resulting in a major New York exhibition and gallery representation. This personal story of class mobility highlights the role that luck can play in people’s ability to improve their class status. At the same time, Patterson-Carver questions the sense of identity that upward mobility supposedly brings, suggesting he continues to feel alienated from those with money and power: “I will continue to work to shock and inform, and to promote left-wing causes–and I am especially grateful for the chance to speak to, and perhaps to effect [sic] persons of a higher caste than myself–in many countries, people like me lie in shallow graves.”

From the exhibition: Classless Society (September 7, 2013 – March 9, 2014)

Ongoing Research

Research on our collection is ongoing. If you have resources you’d like to share, please contact Associate Curator Rebecca McNamara.
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