by Adelle Patten ’21 (she/her)

Loading Mountainscape, 72” x 60”, Acrylics, Spray paint, String on Canvas, 2020. Courtesy of Adelle Patten ’21

Unexpectedly, life during a pandemic has invigorated my art-making practice, as well as the outside rituals that make it happen. Running, exploring nature, taking pictures, making digital collages, discovering new music — all of these habits fuel my creativity. 

I use art-making to escape our current world and process the chaos of 2020. As a triplet, I have always used art to explore my individuality and gain independence. This tendency has been evident since I decided to paint myself as Santa Claus on Christmas Eve as a three-year-old using red lipstick and Sharpie. As you might guess, art has always been a form of introspective, energizing play.

Today I paint to reveal a virtual subconscious that coexists between our physical, analogue reality. I manipulate digital technologies to represent the analogue world. I use paints, paper, and found objects to represent the digital world. By painting and collage-making, I unearth the tension that lies between these two worlds, as well as the resulting anxieties of the everyday ‘user.’

What differentiates a glitch from a mistake? A glitch is commonly understood as a technological mistake. However, a glitch is becoming increasingly more human as the lines between the digital and physical worlds blur. Recalling childhood memories, I’m taken back to a balancing act between exploring acres of land and tuning into a fuzzy TV screen for shows or to play video games: Wii, Guitar Hero, Rock Band, etc. Nostalgically, I escape to feeling the freedom of running through a kudzu-covered forest. Deeper into the woods, I’d wrap tangled, brightly-colored ribbon between trees. Glimmering sunlight would bounce off of each strand. This was an act of endearment, an attempt to express my love for the solitude nature provides.  

However, I increasingly find myself anxious in the natural world. Fearful of my phone dying. Fearful of the unpredictability of the natural world as climate change intensifies. By digitally manipulating my own photos and making physical renditions, I mesh abstraction with representation. I work through my reluctance to succumb to technology’s power and its unnerving influence on our daily lives, while appreciating its ability to community-build. I simultaneously work through climate anxiety as a result of the Anthropocene, while yearning to preserve its beauty. Escapism exists in both worlds; and I use it to cope with both realities.

The three paintings I have chosen to share are ones I have made during this Fall 2020 semester. They are all inspired by digital collages, made by manipulating images from my own archives, and aim to visually convey the unnerving aspects of both the digital and natural world as our lives become increasingly reliant on tech and as climate change continues to worsen. Burnt Sky places two gazing figures directly within a wildfire, humbling humans in relation to climate change. Digital Waterfall incorporates rice paper with paint transferred from the surface of a tarp to achieve what I refer to as “pixelated texture.” If you look closely, you can see tiny squares formed from the tarp. Composed of jagged and torn rice paper, it suggests a virtual scene. Loading Mountainscape blends mountains with a glitchy film, painting the digital world as a filter which informs my outlook on daily life.

Adelle Patten ‘21 (She/Her) is a Studio Art major and Digital Studies minor from Concord, NC. She can be reached for comment at

Digital Waterfall, 16” x 16”, collage and acrylic paint on wood panel, 2020. Courtesy of Adelle Patten.
 Burnt Sky, 30” x 30”, Acrylics, Oils, Spray paint, Sharpie, 2020. Courtesy of Adelle Patten.