Mimm Patterson Wins Streetlight’s 2024 Art Contest

Mimm Patterson is the Winner of Streetlight’s 2024 Art Contest

Among the submissions that we received for the Streetlight Art Contest, Mimm Patterson’s work stood out. We were especially impressed with her encaustic collages, which offered visual complexity and layered meaning, and a quality of singularity or uniqueness.

Social Anxiety and Murder of Crows both create the sense of a hyper-stimuli ridden, obfuscated and conflicted realm, one that captures a fairly accurate portrait of the modern world we create for ourselves. But all of Patterson’s works offer her viewer a richness of surface and depth of plane that determines their visual success.

—Deborah McLeod
Director, Chroma Projects

Lorenzo the Clown, encaustic collage, 8 x 6 x 1.25 in., 2024


Of her recent work, Lorenzo the Clown, artist Mimm Patterson says, “I was estranged from my mother for decades. My father left before I was two. So much of my work attempts to reconcile that history. I’m the baby being held in her father’s arms in the family photo. I’m also the clown in the costume my mother made for me when I was eight years old.”

Patterson is a mixed media artist, writer, creativity coach and trauma-informed yoga therapist who lives in Crozet, Va. She uses photography, found text, embroidery and encaustic collage to explore personal history and show how the past informs our perception of the present.


collage with man in sailor suit
Chronology of Remarkable Events, encaustic collage, 8 x 8 x 1.25 in., 2003


“I believe that, as artists, we pour so much of who we are into what we do that everything we create is, on some level, autobiographical,” says Patterson. “The subject that interests me the most is me and my relationship to the world. The story I am trying to tell in the work I produce is my story, and so it is to my creative benefit to understand on a very deep level how I became the woman I am today. If I have clarity around that, then I am better able to create resonate work about the human experience that connects with the viewer.”

Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, Patterson remembers “taking things apart and gluing them back together to make something new. I also loved writing long, rambling stories that made no sense. My parents had a popular country band with whom I sometimes played guitar and sang, and so music was a large part of my childhood too. The arts are in my DNA.”

Patterson received her BA degree in studio art from Doane College in Crete, Neb. and her MFA in Transpersonal Psychology from Sofia University in Palo Alto, Calif. “I followed my college roommate to California after graduation in 1980—the same weekend Mount St. Helen’s erupted,” she recalls.

Patterson says her true art education began, however, when she took classes at the local community college. She also started working for a non-profit arts organization and became friendly with a community of artists. “Being a witness to their journey taught me more about the business of art, and living as an artist, than anything I learned in the classroom,” she says. “I was a much younger and much more emotionally fragile artist when I lived on the West Coast. I was the quintessential struggling artist in the San Francisco Bay area. I think trying to break into the arts in that competitive environment prevented me from working from a place of grounded authenticity.”


collage with different people amongst words
Last Postcard Home, encaustic collage, 8 x 8 x 7.5 in., 2023


In 1994 Patterson moved from Palo Alto to Dublin, Ireland and then later to County Donegal where she made furniture, taught yoga and trained as a sports massage and neuromuscular therapist. “Moving to Ireland was rather random,” she says. “I wanted to get out of the Bay Area. I thought that if I’m going to move I may as well make it a big move. Ireland had open space, a slow pace and—most importantly—no major earthquakes or forest fires.

“My decade in Ireland was creatively fallow, but it was a time of profound change for me. I hit bottom but then  the only way to go was up.“

She came back to California in 2005 and studied yoga therapy. “I returned to the States a different person and for several years after my return I needed to internally process all that had happened in those ten years,” she says. Patterson began work with underserved communities living with substance abuse issues and in chronic pain. Her return to art began when asked to lead art workshops for that population.

Patterson’s mother died in 2018, leading her to focus on family findings in new work. “When I cleaned my mother’s trailer I found several thick photo albums filled with relatives I never met and stories I was never told,” she says. The photos for Chronology and Last Postcard, above, picture her great uncles.

“I’m particularly attached to Last Postcard because that uncle—William Harrison Barber—was a well-known composer—famous for the ditty ‘Dainty Flo from Idaho’—but he died of tuberculosis when he was twenty-four and that, indeed, was his last postcard home.


collage of handkerchief
Grandmother’s Silk Hanky: Falling, encaustic photograph, 20 x 20 x 1.25 in., 2023


“I also found a bag of silk hankies that belonged to my grandmother. Each one was still charged with her essence, even though she’d been gone for decades,” says Patterson.

“At the time I created these pieces I was trying to process the truth that as alone as I’ve felt for much of my life, I was never alone. I have their DNA, their stories and their experiences in my blood.”


photo of a ring
The Engagement Ring, encaustic photograph, 8 x 8 x 1.25 in., 2023


Patterson stopped using found photos last year and began taking her own photographs of items now in her possession. The Engagement Ring, above, is her grandmother’s engagement ring which she wore every day.

Her early work involved black and white photography that she manipulated in the darkroom and then hand colored with oil pastels.

Three decades later, she still manipulates photographs but now she shoots images with her iPhone instead of her Pentax. Her most recent work begins as an original photograph digitally processed and printed on Hanshi paper. It is then mounted on cradled birch panels with an encaustic medium which is a combination of bees wax and damar resin. She builds texture and depth through the layering and overlapping of images, some of which are left intentionally out of focus.


collage with multiple crows
Murder of Crows, encaustic collage, 18 x 24 x 1.25 in., 2024


For the past five years, Patterson has been developing a mixed media portfolio. She notes that her current body of work is an exploration of family history and the energetic imprints we leave behind on the objects and environments that hold for us heart and meaning through found photographs and encaustic collage.

“I admire artists who break rules or discover a fresh approach to their chosen medium,” she says. “I recently discovered and am entranced by the Amsterdam-based artist Jackie Mulder. I’m a texture junky and love looking at work from innovative textile artists. More than the work produced, I’m inspired by artists committed to their practice, artists who continue to learn, to explore, and artists who are unafraid to tear something down to begin again.


collage with crossed out words and small woman
Social Anxiety, encaustic collage, 18 x 24 x 1.25 in., 2024


“My upcoming solo exhibit will explore the energetic imprint we leave behind on the objects we choose to keep around us while we are alive.”

Mimm Patterson
Mimm Patterson moved to Virginia in 2020. Her early photography and found object sculpture from the 1990s have been exhibited throughout the San Francisco Bay area. Since then, her work has been exhibited online through Artist Alliance, Artsy, and Art Forum. Her work has been included in exhibits at Pacific Art League in Palo Alto, Calif., Woman Made Gallery in Chicago, Ill., and at McGuffey Art Center and Second Street Gallery in Charlottesville, Va. Her first solo exhibit will be held in October at a new gallery in Charlottesville. To see more of Patterson’s work, click here. She lives in Crozet, Va. with her partner, Ben.

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2 thoughts on “Mimm Patterson Wins Streetlight’s 2024 Art Contest”

  1. Dear Mimm

    Congratulations on your great achievement.

    I was amazed to read that Last Postcard Home showed your great uncles. My first thought on seeing the picture in the left corner was that it was a younger you. There is something around the lips that is so familiar.

    Well the topic of Insight is a joyful challenge and looking at your work was very insightful to me. I observed it differently because I had that prompt lurking in the back of my mind and saw things I would otherwise have missed.

    The drop in idea is excellent. I will definitely be with you on July 25 th as long as I can escape from this wretched Covid situation that currently has me in bed.
    I will see if Deborah would like to join us.

  2. Congratulations, Mimm, on winning Streetlights 2024 Art Contest — whatever THAT may mean! I hope it means more exposure of your creative abilities to many, many more people who will love your work as much as I do. Perhaps the award will place your images in a series of street lights along major urban well-traveled walkways, where people can be captivated and enchanted? Very excited for you on this much deserved recognition!

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