Born and raised in Brooklyn New York, Patrick Dougher is a self-taught fine artist, musician, poet, and actor. Dougher has performed and recorded with Sade, the Grammy award winning Dan Zanes, and many others. He's played drums with many notable reggae artists such as Black Uhuru's Michael Rose and Steel Pulses' David Hinds and Hip Hop star Chuck D of Public Enemy. He's also played drums on "The Dub Side of the Moon" one of the bestselling reggae LPs of all time.
Dougher worked as an art therapist with HIV positive children at Kings County Hospital, a co-curator at the Museum of African Art, a youth counselor and teaching artist at Project Reach and Studio in a School and most recently as the Program Director of Groundswell, NYC's premier community mural arts organization where he oversaw and directed over 300 public mural projects throughout the city. He is currently working as he Interim Director of Education for BRIC Arts Media (where we met) and as a freelance consultant with The Center for Court Innovations. For over 20 years, Dougher has used the arts to empower and support the socio-emotional growth of at-risk and disenfranchised youth of the city.
Dougher's art reflects his life's mission to inspire and empower by honestly and fearlessly holding up a mirror to society's inequity and injustices. Through his art he seeks to celebrate the noble beauty and divine spiritual nature of people of African descent and to connect urban African-American culture to its roots in sacred African art and ceremony.
GREG ANDERSON ELYSÉE:: Mr. Dougher! How are you today?
PATRICK DOUGHER: Thank you for asking. I'm feeling really good at this moment!
ANDERSON ELYSÉE: Last month you had an exhibition opening, GODBODY in Brooklyn, New York. First off, it was an amazing showcase. Can you tell us about the exhibition and for people new to your work, can you tell us about your work? How would you describe it?
DOUGHER: Thank you! Yes, this show has literally a dream come true. When I left my position as Program Director at Groundswell Community Mural Project two years ago, I set a goal to have a solo show at MoCada (Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Arts) within two years and voila! Here we are! I am so grateful. The theme of the show GODBODY is the primary theme of all my work which is to call attention to and celebrate the Divine nature of all people but in particular people of African descent.
To quote my artist bio, "Patrick's art reflects his life's mission to inspire and empower by honestly and fearlessly holding up a mirror to society's inequity and injustices. Through his art he seeks to celebrate the noble beauty and divine spiritual nature of people of African descent and to connect urban African-American culture to its roots in sacred African art and ceremony."
ANDERSON ELYSÉE: Following up on that quote, the image of Blackness is a continuing theme. Can you talk about that? What impacts you to focus on this and how do you go about doing this?
DOUGHER: I'd like to say that depicting Black people in my art is a deliberate decision to address and call attention to the inequality in representation of people of color in Western art and that may be partially the case, but honestly it is mainly because I find people of recent African descent to be beautiful and interesting visually. I simply enjoy the process of painting Black people. I also like using everyday people from my environment as inspiration and by depicting them [it] calls attention to their beauty.
ANDERSON ELYSÉE: How long have you been involved in the arts? How did you get into it?
DOUGHER: I think I have been creative all my life. I was born with this affliction. As a little child before I even had a name for what I was doing I was creating. Writing poetry as soon as I could write, drawing with anything I could find, making instruments out of whatever I could get my hands on. I was into all arts including martial arts without having any real guidance or encouragement. It was just my nature. My life has flowed in the direction of art organically. I never chose it as a career. It chose me.
ANDERSON ELYSÉE: One thing with the artist's life when it chooses you, is definitely the struggle. What hardships have you faced with your art of any kind? Be it personally for you creating them and/or getting people to understand it?
DOUGHER: Honestly I don't subscribe to the notion of "struggle." I feel if something becomes a struggle in my life it means that I need to consider a new path. In that way I try to emulate water and flow around obstacles. Sometimes creating art can present challenges but I welcome the challenges as lessons to be learned. I have never tried to get people to understand my art. I'm happy to explain the concepts and symbolism but if people don't understand or like my art then I accept that it simply isn't for them.
ANDERSON ELYSÉE: Can I ask you a little bit about your general process? I'm always fascinated when it comes to mixed media and how people go about it? I feel like it's so different depending on the individual?
DOUGHER: Yes, it's definitely different depending on the individual but it's even different depending on each piece of work. I try to approach each piece with a sense of newness. I literally ask, "What do you need? What are you asking for?" and then I listen and follow directions. There is an important balance of doing the work and letting go of the results. Often the end result will be completely different from what I envisioned when I started. The other important part is knowing when a piece is done and stopping. This often requires a conversation with the ego. The ego always wants more but humility will allow you to recognize that your work is done.
ANDERSON ELYSÉE: I'm curious now about your inspirations. I understand and see Blackness, life, spirituality… but what are other inspirations? Any particular artist(s) have helped influence, inspire, or push you in any way?
DOUGHER: The root of "inspiration" is "in spirit." The Supreme Creator. The God of my understanding is my ultimate inspiration. When I am connected to God, the source of all creation then ideas and energy flow without obstruction.
I am influenced by everything in my life and environment but I am particularly influenced by the work of other artists in all creative mediums. For example: music, poetry and literature are a huge influence on me and my art. I am in awe of the work of writers, musicians, poets, dancers and other fine artists. Some of my favorite artists are Romare Bearden, Charles White, Kerry James Marshall, Barkley Hendricks, John Biggers, Kehinde Wiley and many many more. Children's art is my absolute favorite. The art that children make is pure expression, fearless, and free. It is the closest to God.
ANDERSON ELYSÉE: Like you as a person, I feel a lot of spiritual energy when I look at your art as well. Sometimes it's a mix of beliefs, Black religions I sense. There are some pieces with Vodou veves, symbols of deities. Can you tell us about that?
DOUGHER: Much like with my previous answer, I have been spiritual and interested in spirituality all of my life. Because of this curiosity I have explored many religions and belief systems. From Christianity to Buddhism to Rastafarianism to Islam to Hinduism to Ife/Yoruba to Judaism to Vodou. Here is basically what I have come to understand: First, ALL religions and belief systems originated in Africa. Second, all religions share some basic principles that I believe are universal truths. In other words: there are many paths to the truth but the truth is ONE. All are valid in my opinion. That's why I see no contradiction in putting Islamic, Hindu, and Christian imagery in one piece of art. I became familiar with Vodou ritual and veves from growing up with good friends who were Haitian and who practiced.
ANDERSON ELYSÉE: What has been some of the proudest moments of your artistic journey, including you as a human being?
DOUGHER: There have been many but perhaps the most significant happened about three years ago when I had the clear epiphany and acceptance that I am in fact an artist. Up until that point, although I always created art, I would never claim the title "artist." Maybe because I never went to school for art (I dropped out of high school my sophomore year and never went to college) or maybe because of my upbringing which unfortunately taught me that "we don't do that. Being an artist is what other more privileged people do…"
The simple act of accepting that I am an artist and owning it changed the whole trajectory of my life. It was a proud moment because it started me on a journey of faith, courage, and self awareness. I am living in my true purpose.
ANDERSON ELYSÉE: Earlier you said you didn't feel like you struggled with your art, but what would you say have been some of your most challenging moments of your life if you don't mind opening up to us about that?
DOUGHER: There have been many of those too. I have endured much suffering and hard times in my life. I fathered a son when I was 21 years old so I had to work hard and grow up while trying to take care of myself and him. I had to hit a devastating bottom with drugs and alcohol almost 19 years ago before I got help and changed my life. This was God's grace. If I hadn't done that I would have died a miserable lonely death.
ANDERSON ELYSÉE: I'm very glad you're still with us! Thank you for being open and vulnerable with us. That said, would you have any advice to give to people wanting to express themselves in the types of fields you have?
DOUGHER: Well you know all the corny clichés. You've heard them a thousand times but they are real. I am still learning and applying these basic principals in my life… OK, here we go:
* Believe in yourself and honor your truth
* Work hard and stay on your path
* Meditate and listen to your heart
* Be Courageous and fearless
* Have humble confidence
* Do what you love and love what you do
* Don't be afraid or too prideful to ask for help and help others whenever you can
* Surround yourself with positive smart and honest people
* Be a lifelong learner
* Laugh and Love as much as you can
* Trust, rely on and give thanks to your Higher Power whatever your concept of that may be be
ANDERSON ELYSÉE: Thank you for that. How long is the exhibition going for?
DOUGHER: As of now the exhibition at MoCada is up until 12/22 but it has been very popular (All Thanks and praises to God) so there is talk of extending the show.
ANDERSON ELYSÉE: I really hope it happens! It's such an amazing showcase. What's next for you?
DOUGHER: Honestly, I don't know but I trust it will be great! I am doing a HUGE mural for Philly Mural Arts this spring and I have done some book covers for famous black women authors and poets including Zora Neal Hurston and Mahogany Brown. I have been offered solo shows in New Orleans, Oakland. Ghana, South Africa, St, Croix and Switzerland. I am honored and humbled by this. I am going with the flow and accepting the blessings that are coming my way. I am not sure where I'll be in the near future but I have faith that I will continue to manifest and elevate in accordance with the will and by the grace of God. I am only taking credit for showing up for the blessings and putting in the work. All Glory goes to God.
Find information on Patrick Dougher and his work on his site HERE.