Mary Patten is a visual artist, video-maker, writer, educator, occasional curator, and political activist. For over 25 years, she has exhibited installations, videos, drawings, prints, and public collaborative projects locally, nationally, and internationally at venues ranging from the Chicago Cultural Center, Gallery 400, Northern Illinois University Art Museum, the Hyde Park Art Center, DOVA Temporary, Randolph St. Gallery, Creative Time (with Feel Tank Chicago), Art in General, The Cooper Union, the New Museum in NYC, Shedhalle/Zürich, the Rotterdam International Film Festival, London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. Her book Revolution as an eternal dream: the Exemplary Failure of the Madame Binh Graphics Collective was published by Half Letter Press in 2011. She has also published in Radical Teacher, AREA Chicago, Prompt, The Passionate Camera (ed. Deborah Bright) and WhiteWalls. Online artist’s projects include “TERROR-ist?” and “Experiments in Living.”
Patten has directed and participated in many large-scale collaborative art projects for over thirty years, including the Chicago Torture Justice Memorials project , Pathogeographies , Project Enduring Look, billboards with ACT UP/Chicago, Artists’ Call against Intervention in Central America, Action against Racism in the Arts, and Cityarts Workshop. Some of her videos are distributed by the Video Data Bank. She has won fellowships from Artadia, the Illinois Arts Council, the NEA, and many others. She teaches in the Film/Video/New Media/Animation Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
In all her work, she seeks to address collisions as well as alignments between the worlds of “politics” and art-making. The frailties of memory, speculative fiction, and the archive of the everyday are all evident in her “singular” work – where she claims authorship, fully aware that there are no wholly original ideas. She continues to be drawn to collective and collaborative forms of art and cultural production in which to re-claim language, feeling, and political passions from fundamentalist thinking, and to reclaim a utopia of the everyday, a way of being together in the world that allows for anger, joy, and reparative visions.