In Conversation with Patrick Dougher: Reimaging the Sacred Spirituality in Black Bodies
In this week’s One + One interview, curator and writer Veronica Elizabeth Thomas speaks to mixed media artist Patrick Dougher.
Between music, poetry, and painting, Dougher splits his time between the mediums he loves. Mostly working with acrylic paint and mixed textiles, this Brooklyn-based artist graces the viewer with hopeful collages of Black bodies adorned in jewels, robes, and Byzantine halos. We're moved by his work, and were eager to find out more:
VET: Your work is very colorful, even in your Black & White Collages Series. Could you tell us about your process of color composition? And how do you know which colors to incorporate?
PD: Honestly I’ve never really thought about how or why I use color so I’m grateful for the question. I think I’d have to say I simply go by the “this feels right” method when I consider the use of color in my work. Often before beginning a piece I will envision the mood that I want the piece to convey and color is a very important ingredient for creating mood so I select a palette accordingly. Some pieces call for a single color but I will use different tones and values of that single color to create depth and shadow.
Then there are times when it’s as simple as using the materials available to me. The black & white collages are a good example of that. Many of those pieces were created at a time when I did have access to paints but I did have access to a Xerox machine. The need to create always finds a way!
VET: I encountered newspaper clippings quite often in your work. Why is that? And are the messages significant to the specific pieces?
PD: Yes I’ve used newspaper as a medium since I started making work. I think part of that comes from the influence Punk Rock and propaganda art had on my youth. I select the newspaper articles and headlines very carefully to convey the message of a piece. I also like the texture and design newsprint adds to paintings. Unfortunately sometimes the best bits get painted over so there are hidden messages in the work. You’ll never see them but I know they are there!
VET: Would you say it’s your goal to capture the spirituality in Black bodies? If so, how did this come about and what are your inspirations?
PD: A main point of my work is about calling attention to the beauty and divine nature of "everyday people" and people of color in particular. I have been drawn to religious icon paintings all my life. This influence may stem from attending Catholic churches with my father as a youth.
The sacredness and power religious paintings and statues moved me but I always felt disconnected with the people depicted in the images because they didn't look like me or most of the people in my life. In my early teens, I was influenced by the philosophy of the 5 Percent Nation that spoke to the divinity of people of color and later as a young adult by the Hindu “Namaste” belief that we all embody God. Much of my work is about connecting to the Divine within and outside of us.
"The sacredness and power religious paintings and statues moved me but I always felt disconnected with the people depicted in the images because they didn't look like me or most of the people in my life."
VET: Between collage, painting, and sculpting, which medium gives you the most creative freedom?
PD: I think I enjoy the freedom of collage making best, I really like the tactile process of cutting and arranging shapes and images to create a new piece. I generally incorporate some painting in my collage work and some collage/mixed-media in my painting so I get the best of both worlds!
VET: Across all mediums, which is your favorite piece?
PD: I usually fall in love with whatever piece I’m working on at the moment. The one in front of me is my favorite. I can look back on most pieces I've done and pick out my favorite parts but equally pick out areas where I feel I could’ve done better or where I didn’t quite achieve what I had hoped. I thinks its that dissatisfaction that drives me to keep working.
VET: Are there any upcoming projects that we can look forward to seeing from you?
PD: Yes! Inshallah, by the spring I will have finished a couple of children's books that I've been slowly working on. Writing and illustrating children's books is something that I’ve never done before so the challenge is super exciting!
View more of their seminal works: