God Body Art: An Interview with Patrick Dougher

Patrick Dougher, self taught artist, musician, poet, and actor, is widely celebrated for his mixed media collages and paintings that center the identities of black folks. Fine lines and vivid hues, mesh together to form portraits of resistance, across a spectrum of bold, daring, and rich backdrops. His commitment to the arts is reflected through his continued mentorship of students and artists of color as well as advocacy that is driven by creativity, expression, and culture.

At each turn, Patrick Dougher reveals promising and uplifting truths about the divine essence of expression that can only be described as:

God. Body. Art.

How is your culture and perspective embodied in your artwork?

My experience and culture influence my perspective on life, spirituality and social justice. There is no separation between that perspective and my work. As a self-taught artist I think I am not particularly “sophisticated” about my approach to creating work. My art is a genuine expression that mirrors my perspective, my culture and my life.

What are some obstacles that artists of color are facing in the industry? How did you overcome these obstacles?

I am not sure about these obstacles in the art “industry” as such but I feel that the old adage “We have to be twice as good to get half as far” applies to all industries in this country. I think the art world is very Eurocentric. The standards for what constitutes good and meaningful art is often judged by standards that have been created by people who aren’t necessarily connected to the Black experience or aesthetic.

I am not consciously trying to overcome these obstacles. Instead I am simply trying to create art that is honest and true to MY standards and vision.

Why is important to shed light on the African/Black experience through community involvement and expression? How have you advocated for the community?

I have worked for decades as an educator and youth advisor in the NYC Board of Education and with Community based organizations. I was also the program director for one of NY’s premiere Community Mural Arts organizations for several years. My life’s mission has been to use the arts to empower and support the financially disadvantaged, the disenfranchised and specifically youth of color in the city.

I was blessed and honored to sit on a panel with Ms. Angela Davis last year. We had a long one on one discussion after the panel about the importance and power of art to the movement to uplift, inform and empower people of color. Its been said that “All Art is Propaganda”. I think the power of seeing images of our shared experience and the beauty and majesty of our people should never be underrated.

What artists, musicians, poets, or writers influenced your craft? How have these creatives paved the way for emerging artists of color?

I am a self taught artist, musician, poet and an avid reader. I have learned my craft by studying at the feet of the masters and by maintaining an attitude of curiosity, humility and awe. I think Ive been taught and influenced by literally every book Ive read and every poem Ive heard. There are too many to name here.

I was blessed to come of age during the late 70’s & 80’s. I was heavily influenced by the emergence of the Hip Hop, Punk Rock and Rastafarian Reggae movements. The commonality of these musical forms was a sense of honesty, rebellion and innovation. I think the other overarching ethos of these musical movements was the DIY (Do It Yourself) attitude and the promotion of critical thinking.

I think its incredibility important for creatives to study the work of master writers and artists of all colors and nationalities and from different time periods to inform, influence and inspire and to form a foundation in which to build upon.

Do you think art and other forms of expression serve as mode of healing? How so? Why is art necessary in the healing process?

Incredibly so. Art has quite literally saved my life. Art heals the soul. For me the process of creation and expression is vital to spiritual, emotional and mental balance and well being. Art connects me to a Higher Power and that connection has all power to heal.

I worked for years as an Art Therapist at Kings County Hospital. I worked with HIV positive children. I witnessed first hand the healing power of creating art had on those children. It allowed them an outlet to express themselves in a pure way that was beyond judgment. It gave them away to release emotional toxins. That in itself is quite healing.

Art, music, poetry and writing provide a universal sense of connection to humanity and to God. This is a very powerful source for health and healing.

How do you think art is challenging the current political landscape? What do you hope to tell viewers of your artwork who feel disempowered or disillusioned by the state of our society today?

I don’t think my art is overtly political. My focus is really about bringing to light our Divine Nature which goes much deeper than politics. This in itself may be a subversive act. To call attention to the fact that politics are a distraction from what is the true essence of the human experience which is in my opinion to manifest spiritually.

There is no doubt that we are in a very negative and dangerous time politically. A time of sanctioned insanity but I think the root of that insanity is that politics and politicians have moved us away from the basic tenants of our spiritual selves. I hope that my art speaks fearlessly to our divine nature. There is no time in recent history when its more important to be reminded of the virtues of beauty, honesty, compassion and most importantly love that we all possess. That is the duty of art and artists in this society.


Born and raised in Brooklyn New York, Patrick Dougher is a self-taught fine artist, musician, poet and actor.

Patrick has performed and recorded with Sade, the Grammy award winning Dan Zanes and many others. He has 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. Patrick also played drums on “The Dub Side of the Moon” one of the bestselling reggae LPs of all time.

He has performed his poetry for the WNET Open Mic series as well as BRIC TV and venues around NYC. Patrick was a lead actor in the Ping Chong 651 Arts theatre production “Brooklyn 63” which toured in 2014.

Patrick 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 and as a freelance consultant with The Center for Court Innovations. For over 20 years Patrick has used the arts to empower and support the socio-emotional growth of at-risk and disenfranchised youth of the city.

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. Find him on Instagram @patrickdougher.

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