This November, Iakoiehwáhtha (Iako) Patton received a Rhodes Scholarship, a prestigious award that will allow her to study at Oxford University. Patton is a fourth-year U of T undergraduate student from the Kanien’kehá:ka community who studies art history and anthropology with a minor in Renaissance studies. She is among the 11 Canadian recipients of the scholarship for 2023. 

The Rhodes Scholarship, which is administered by the Rhodes Trust, is the oldest international scholarship program. The scholarship was established in 1902 through the will of Cecil John Rhodes, which devoted most of Rhodes’ fortune to the program. According to the Rhodes Trust, the scholarship aims to “identify young leaders from around the world who, through the pursuit of education together at Oxford, would forge bonds of understanding and fellowship for the betterment of mankind.”

Interest in art history 

Patton’s research interests lie in fifteenth to seventeenth century Netherlandish Art. In an interview with The Varsity, Patton said that her interest developed “in part because I took a bunch of classes by [U of T art history professor] Ethan Matt Kavaler, and he really cultivated my love for that specific period of art history.” 

This appreciation extends both ways: in an email to The Varsity, Kavaler wrote, “Iako Patton is one of the most gifted students I have had the privilege of teaching in over 25 years at the University of Toronto. Patton has a keen mind and an unusual skill at parsing abstract arguments.” 

One of Patton’s favourite works is Hieronymous Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights.” Bosch’s painting is a Netherlandish triptych, a three-panelled altarpiece. “If it’s a good triptych, it has a fantastic crazy hell panel,” said Patton, referring to the right-most panel of the triptych.

Patton also works as a research assistant for St Michael’s College Professor Reid Locklin, researching Indigenous art history for the resource website Teaching and Learning as Treaty Peoples. Her work for the website sits “at the intersections of art history, Christianity, coloniality, and Indigeneity.” In an email to The Varsity, Locklin wrote, “I can think of few other students more worthy to be honoured as a Rhodes Scholar.”

Patton is heavily involved with U of T’s Art History Department. She is the president of the History of Art Students’ Association, a position that has garnered praise from professors. “As president of the History of Art Students’ Association, she has been a terrific ambassador for our discipline and has contributed to the flourishing of our undergraduate program,” wrote Joseph Clarke in an email to The Varsity. Clarke is the Assistant Chair of the Department of Art History.  

Last summer, Patton took a summer abroad course run by the chair of the Department of Art History, Professor Giancarla Periti. In an email to The Varsity, Periti wrote, “Iako’s intellectual curiosity and questions helped to generate interesting conversations. As a teacher, it was a real pleasure to have such a remarkably gifted student as Iako in the course.”

Outside of academia

In the future, Patton hopes to travel and pursue a PhD. “I want to go to every major museum in Europe,” said Patton. “There are so many places I want to go, and if I can do that with research intent, even better!”

Even outside of the classroom, Patton loves art, and particularly tattoos. “My hot take is that tattoo culture should be part of the art historical canon,” she said. Her goal is to get a tattoo in every city she visits while travelling abroad; when in Paris, she received a tattoo of Remy the rat from Disney’s Ratatouille. 

Patton also loves to weight lift at the Hart House Gym. Currently, her deadlift maximum is 225 lbs. During the pandemic, she took up the form of exercise and it has become an important part of her life.

Outside of her research, Patton helped plan the past two annual Campus (Re)conciliations Conferences. According to the Victoria College website, the Victoria College-run conference “provides a space to listen to Indigenous leaders, community members, and students speak about their research, reflections, and experiences.” Patton is also involved in this year’s conference, which is scheduled for March 23.