2018 Nohl Fellowship winners include artists Rosemary Ollison

The Nohl fellowship gives two established artists $20,000 and three emerging artists $10,000, funds often used to create new work or to complete existing projects. There is nothing traditional about this year's winners – no traditional painters or sculptors in sight, for instance. As part of the fellowship, the artists will present their work at the Haggerty Museum of Art next year, and an exhibition catalog will be produced.

Rosemary Ollison grew up on an Arkansas plantation, where her grandfather was a horse wrangler. She moved to Wisconsin when she was 16 and began making art in her 50s as a way to tell her own story about being a black woman in America and to find healing from a history of abuse. She describes her drawings and installations as a “therapeutic discussion with Jehovah God.” Not unlike Mary Louise Nohl, the namesake of the award, Ollison transformed the place she lives into an art environment. Her apartment is an affirmation, a vibrant, joyous space fashioned from fiber work, handmade rugs, drawings, duct tape sculptures, beaded works, jewelry, hog bone necklaces and clothing. She is currently making textile works out of repurposed leather and continuing to write and make drawings. Ollison’s work has been presented at the Outsider Art Fair in New York City and is in the collections of the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Chipstone Foundation. In 2019, Ollison will design a room for the Saint Kate, a new art-focused hotel in Milwaukee, and have a solo show at the Lynden Sculpture Garden. She is represented by the Portrait Society Gallery.

Rosemary Ollison is a self-taught artist who lives in Milwaukee, WI. She was 16 years old when she moved to the midwest from a plantation in Arkansas. She began making art in 1984 while healing from an abusive marriage and for the next 25 years explored numerous media. Most of her work deals thematically with her identity as a black women and celebrates the power, individuality and mystique of other women. Besides drawing, Rosemary collects glass, leather, bracelets, beads, bones and jewelry and repurposes these materials into sculptural works. She has redesigned her small apartment with layers of pattern, duct tape sculptures, curtains of woven leather, crazy quilts and inventive drawings. She also designs clothing and writes poetry. Ollison says she creates in dialog with God. When I am creating I am satisfied, I am free! I no longer just exist, I am alive!

The Portrait Society presented her work in a major exhibition in 2016, which included a room-sized installation that was a recreation of her living room, with a four channel video.

She has exhibited work at the 2017, 2018 and 2019 Outsider Art Fair in New York, UWM Union Gallery, Milwaukee, Indianapolis Public Library, Walkers Point Center for the Arts, Uihlein Peters Gallery; Cissy Peltz Gallery, Milwaukee and Alphons Gallery. Her work is included in the collections of the Chipstone Foundation and the Milwaukee Art Museum. She is represented by Portrait Society Gallery.


Review, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Mary Louise Schumacher


2019 Outsider Art Fair, New York, NY

2018 Outsider Art Fair, New York, NY

2018 Waste Not II: Wisconsin Self Taught, Portrait Society Gallery, Milwaukee, WI

2017 Contemporary Art Society Art Auction, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI

2017 Learning to Live with Abundance, Portrait Society Gallery (solo)

2017 Now Figuration, Portrait Society Gallery

2017 Outsider Art Fair, New York, NY

2016 Agency, Industry, Infinity, Portrait Society Gallery


Milwaukee Art Museum

Chipstone Foundation, Milwaukee, WI



Exhibit of self-taught artists at UWM Union Gallery 1994

Rosemary expressing her feelings about the art world says: I don't know noting and I don't know nobody. Her small apartment is filled to capacity with her work. It covers the walls, peeps from behind the chairs, sofas, cabinets, and lines both the closet and hall spaces. She says it all began about two years ago when Jehovah inspired her and directed her to paint. She stared with some bed sheets as her canvas and then moved to boards and markers on paper. The outpouring of images is staggering. When she is not at work, rummaging at second hand shops for frames or attending religious services; she is creating art- work. Rosemary also writes extensive prose about her work. Often the meaning of what she has painted is not revealed to her until much later, even up to a year or more. This exciting body of work reflects the years that she lived as a faceless, well-dressed mannequin enduring sexual, physical and mental abuse; as well as her recent journey to enlightenment. Evelyn Patricia Terry; Artist and Curator

Exhibit of self-taught artists at UWM Union Gallery

Rosemary Ollison packs an amazing amount of anguish and hope into a truly impressive array of seemingly autobiographical drawings, in markers on paper. James Auer, art critic, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Black History Month Exhibit at the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library

While much of the work in this show is noteworthy, the mixed media works of Rosemary Ollison and the masks of M. E. Johnson are among the more engaging pieces. Rosemary Ollison has a characteristic style that is at once complex and light. Her use of bright colors, glitter and even sequins betrays a cheerfulness despite her obvious commentary on social and personal issues. Oversized bare feet---some with more than five toes---and large pointed breasts with jeweled nipples are recurring images, and their exaggerated forms suggest their meaning: the feet represent toil and burden; the breasts comment on the sexual role. Ollison's style is decidedly surreal---with forms and shapes blending and shifting into one another in an often illogical yet completely rational visual progression. In "Get Off My A.." the woman is seemingly being pulled, breast first, toward a big question mark, while simultaneously being propelled forward by a contorted, needy mass of connected faces adhering to her behind. (No interpretation needed here). Julie Pratt McQuiston.

Since 1991, Rosemary Ollison has produced more than two thousand works on paper, canvas and cardboard. Many of her works are brightly colored and vividly patterned compositions. In 1994, she ban matching poetry to here images. Currently, Ollison is working on a book that documents her images and poetry.

Like Grgich, Ollison's adult life has been rife with crisis and instability. Prior to 1991, Ollison captures the repressed anger that followed from her abuse and turns it into a healing force. Specifically, she notes that , through her art, she has been able to develop a personal relationship with God. Ollison suggest that her images relate messages sent to here by God to help heal from the trauma she experienced. The works in this exhibition are only a few of the many images that document her journey.

The abuse from which Ollison suffered was primarily inflicted on her by women. As such, her relationships with women were difficult, and she often believed that women would keep her from experiencing happiness. In an attempt to expel her rage about her abuse, Ollison drew an image of a large vividly patterned foot kicking a similarly patterned diminutive woman holding a staff signifying authority [cat. No. 26]. THE QUALIFIER In a poem that she wrote to accompany this image, Ollison identifies that woman as the qualifier. The large foot is a self-portrait, the embodiment of the newfound self-worth that she experienced while healing from her abuse; the small woman---the qualifier---is being physically pushed out of Ollisons life. In addition, the vivid patterning in this image is a declaration of freedom from the oppression inflicted upon the artist by the qualifier. By creating a boldly colored and patterned drawing, she rejects any compulsion to follow a rigid patterned set by the oppressor.

In another drawing, THREE HEADED FOOL Ollison draws a woman holding a sword. This sword embodies the physical aggression that the artist felt as a result of her anger. When angry, Ollison believes that she could turn into a three headed fool and perform act that she knew she would later regret. Instead of acting on these impulses, Ollison funneled her anger into a drawing of a creature with three heads---a fool---wielding a threatening sword.

A series of three works, created over a five-year period, also documents her attempt to free herself from the prison of her anger and frustration. First in this series is Get These Freaks Off My Back [cat. no. 28], followed by Give Me a Tail Please [cat. no. 30] and Thanks! [cat. no. 30]. In these works, Ollison desperately cries for help in removing the demons of abuse that lingered in her mind; she begs for assistance in ridding herself of her anger; and finally thanks those who helped her to overcome her frustration.

According to Ollison, her art making has given her new life. She believes that making art has helped her heal and has helped her foster a personal relationship with God. In her work, Ollison tries to communicate her harrowing journey from being a victim of abuse to being the author of her own self-expression. (Nicole Derenne---Walkers Point for the Arts Milwaukee, Wisconsin---2004).

I am sick and tired of being qualified by man
Will he qualify me for food stamps
Will he qualify me for welfare
Will he qualify me for low-income housing


It is that old qualifier that I want out of my life
He done gone too far now!
It is time out for that old qualifier!

I thought he was big and bad
I feared him, he made me sad

My music don't qualify!
My speech don't qualify!
My style of dress don't qualify!
My worship don't qualify!

Nothing I do seems to qualify!

I went to bed in pain and sad
I woke up in pain and mad
Putting my foot some place it does not
belong would make me glad

I need a new qualifier
One I do not fear, or I cannot lie to
One who knows my weakness and my badness
One who knows my sins and still qualifies me
for my desires and my needs

A qualifier who I don't have to pretend
to be someone who I am not

I go to the doctor, he gives me side affects
I go to the preacher man, he gives me
conflicts, adjustments and demands

I go to my God, the true QUALIFIER
He gives me mercy and love

Lydia Cox January 22, 2004 Filed under Uncategorized There is an art piece hanging on a wall in the South Gallery at the Walker's Point Center for the Arts that bluntly states: "Get These Freaks Off My Back." The piece created by Rosemary Ollison is part of the new "Intersections Series" at the center. With markers, paper and just a few words, Ollison is able to define what the series, which will feature four different exhibits, is all about.

"All of the exhibits look at ways in which people in society are intersecting with other groups," said Walker's Point Center for the Arts Executive Director Linda Corbin-Pardee.

Ollison's encounter with society, as well as the encounters or "intersections" of four other self-taught women, are displayed in the series' first exhibit, "Sister Stories," running now until March 13. EXHIBIT 5
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Relationships and Love
January 18, 2008 March 1, 2008
Walker's Point Center for the Arts
911 W. National Ave
Milwaukee, WI53204

Participating Artists
Reginald Baylor, Chrys Carroll, Zeph Farmby, E. Michael Flanagan, Anne Marie Grgich, Christopher E. Harrison, Sharon Kerry-Harlan, George Ray McCormick, Sr., Michael P. Nolte, Patricia Obletz, Rosemary Ollison, Adolph Rosenblatt, Eli Rosenblatt, Suzanne Rosenblatt, David P. Klein, Nancy Lamars, Felandus Thames, Patrick Turner.

Collage, Assemblage and Quilting Show
July 30, 2009 September 19, 2009
Saint Johns Uihlein Peters Gallery
1840 N. Prospect Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53202

Participating Artists
Brad Anthony Bernard, Blanche Brown, Nancy Camden, Chrystal Denis Gillon, Gary John Gresl, Sharon Kerry-Harlan, Ras 'Ammar Nsorama, Rosemary Ollison and Della Wells,

EXHIBIT Art and Cultures Gallery, Kellogg Gallery October 2 - November 1, 2009 Opening Reception October 2, 4-8 pm (free to the public) http://www.milwaukeerenaissance.com/ABEAAndAfricanAmericanArtistsOfMilwaukee/HomePage

In this juried and invitational exhibition sponsored by African American Artists Beginning to Educate Americans About African American Art (ABEA), Milwaukee community artists are invited to submit visual responses to the topic of Jim Crow and Beyond. The exhibition includes artworks that focus on hateful images or things pertaining to race, class, gender, ethnicity, equality, empowerment and other related topics.

Artworks by: Marlon Bank, Reginald Baylor, Brad Anthony Bernard, Jose Alfredo Chavez, Kari Couture, Tamiko Dargan, Raoul Deal, Crystal Denise Gillon, Mutope J. Johnson, James Kloiber, Darlene A. Lamar, Dara Larson, Rosemary Ollison, Josie Osbourne, Ras Ammar Nsorama, (Rico Mars) Kevin Boatright, Valeria Tatera, Della Wells, and George Williams Jr. and student works by Brooke Beddoe, Joslyn Binkowski and Lisa Formanek

The primary mission of African-American Artists Beginning to Educate Americans About African-American Art is to function as both an advocacy and educational group. ABEA is comprised of artists and art supporters dedicated to contributing to cultural enrichment by educating communities about African-American art and artists, promoting African-American art, and additionally providing opportunities for all artists to work together for prosperity and growth.

ABEA artists are available for hire for art workshops, art forums, art lectures, and commissions. For a prospectus or more information about entering the expansive contemporary dialogue of this exhibition contact: wellsdella@yahoo.com

1501 S. Layton Blvd.
Milwaukee, WI 53215

African American Artists Beginning to
Educate Americans about African American Art (or ABEA)
August2, 2009 - September 27, 2009

Brad Bernard, Blanche Brown, Jeanette Wright-Claus, Zeph Farmby, SharonKerry-Harlan, Mutope J. Johnson, Ruthie Joy, Chrys Laramy, Mike Nolte, Ras Ammar Nsoroma, Patricia Obletz, Rosemary Ollison, Tia Richardson.

(One of Ollison's images is used on invitation)

1501 S. Layton Blvd.
Milwaukee, WI 53215

Visual artists Blanche Brown and Rosemary Ollison will be exhibiting "Moving Forward While Looking Back." The show explores the importance of connecting with the past while not allowing it to hinder you from moving forward to your purpose in life. To understand where we are and where we intend to go we must connect with those experiences of our past that played a part to shape us. Media used by the artists reflects their diversity and includes mixed media, paintings, fabric art, and sculpture. The opening reception will feature performances by spoken word artists including Marcelles and Blance Brown. The gallery runs From 4/18/10 until 6/30/10

Saint Johns Uihlein Peters Gallery
1840 N. Prospect Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53202

A Celebration of African American Art, June 3, 2011 - July 11, 2011 at Unitarian Universalist Church West in Brookfield
Artists contributing to the Community Room show include Brad Bernard, Kevin Boatwright, Laci Coppins, Ruthie Joy, Rosemary Ollison, Rose Onama, Sheila Miller and Tia Richardson.

Peltz Gallery 1119 E Knapp Street Milwaukee, WI

Visions, Voices, Viewpoints and Victories of African American Artists Guest Curator: Della Wells Exhibition through March 19, 2011 Paintings, drawings, collage, quilts, outsider art and original prints by more than 25 artists: David Anderson, Marlon Banks, Reginald Baylor, Trenton Baylor, Brad Bernard, Kevin Boatright, Blanche Brown, Chrys Carroll, Portia Cobb, Willie Cole, Laci S.Coppins, Jamea Edwards, Zeph Farmby, Sam Gilliam, Chrystal Denise Gillon, Amber

KING DRIVE COMMONS GALLERY & STUDIO (2775 N. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. 414.704.9117)Rosemary Ollison:Beyond Religion: Finding True Self and Purpose in My Creative Works. A self-taught artist, Rosemary Ollison's artistic interests include writing, painting, drawing and digital art, which she skillfully integrates into many of her works. Ms. Ollison credits her artistic talent and inspiration to God and considers herself an inspirational artist, who creates from the heart. She is actively involved with ABEA, the African American artist advocacy group and the Museum of Computer Art (MOCA). Enjoy live jazz by Larry Moore Trio and a performance by Hansberry-Sands Theatre Company. Refreshments and culinary delights provided by B.R. Smiths Catering. Sponsored by Martin Luther King Economic Development Corporation. Friday: 5:30 to 9pm, Saturday: 11am to 4pm

September 18, 2015 at Union Art Gallery in Milwaukee, WI.
September 18 - October 9
Opening reception: Friday, September 18, 5-8pm Artist Panel: October 1 at 7pm Art has the power to connect people of different cultures, languages, and faiths. Through artwork we can begin to identify the ideas and experiences that connect us all. Inspired: The Power of Art and Faith celebrates those connections as seen in the work of a diverse group of local artists. Through work in a wide range of mediums, these artists showcase their artistic creativity and reveal how they conceive of themselves, their culture and faith, and their community. Through this exhibition and the work of these talented artists, we hope to highlight the common ground that exists in our community and between us as individuals.


Jasmine Barmore http://jazmenart.blogspot.com/
Karlyn Cauley http://karlyncauley.com/
Helene Fischman http://www.helenefischman.com/
Nina Ghanbarzadeh http://www.ninaghanbarzadeh.com/#mixmedia
Asher Imtiaz https://www.flickr.com/photos/asherimtiaz/
Paul Jentz http://www.byhandofpaul.us/
Barbara Kohl-Spiro http://www.barbarakohlspiro.com/index.html
Christopher McIntyre http://www.cmperceptions.com/
William Muhammed
Michael Newhall
Rosemary Ollison http://gobeyondreligion.com/
Nirmal Raja http://www.nirmalraja.com/
Naomi Scheel http://naomischeel.com/

VEDIO [Original airdate: September 29, 2010]Black Nouveau looks at the role sports can play in family bonding; profiles self taught artist Rosemary Ollison; discusses the impact of sickle cell anemia in the African-American community; and previews "Mark My Words," Brad Pruitt's film on area poets which will screen at the upcoming Milwaukee Film Festival. Co-Hosts Faithe Colas and Milton F. Dockery.