The Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Mary L. Nohl Fund Fellowships for Individual Artists program annually awards unrestricted funds to emerging and established Milwaukee artists to support the creation of new work, or the completion of work in progress. This virtual exhibition includes new work by the 2020 Fellows. The Haggerty Museum of Art has partnered with the program since 2016.
Rosy Petri Headshot (2021) by Daniel Seung Pugs PuglieseHaggerty Museum of Art
I am a self-taught artist fusing printmaking, photography, and multimedia storytelling into my fiber arts practice. Inspired by the sacred art and architecture of churches and cathedrals, I create contemporary iconography seasoned with Black history, music, and culture. Part autobiography, part documentary, my work is about self-discovery, history, and radical Black Joy. It is important for me to acknowledge that my ancestors are the descendants of the survivors of the Middle Passage. In my art, I hope to honor the ancestors (known and forgotten) by carrying on cultural traditions as they have manifested in my life. My work is an offering of rhythm, color, and celebration for them.
About the Artist
Rosy Petri is a mother, artist, and storyteller from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 2020, Petri received the Mildred Harpole Artist of the Year award from the City of Milwaukee Arts Board. In 2019, as the 11th Pfister Artist in Residence, she created a space to showcase her fabric portraits, record podcast interviews, and celebrate traditions of the African diaspora. The prior year, Petri was a Milwaukee Artist Resource Network mentee under artist Della Wells. Petri’s work can be viewed in several prominent Milwaukee locations, including the Pfister Hotel, where Shavonda’s Bridal High Tea, a legacy piece, commemorates her residency; Northwestern Mutual’s Giving Gallery, where her gestural portrait series Together is featured; and at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, where her MKE WI series is installed outside the county executive’s office. Petri’s art and fine craft can be found at www.thisisparadisehome.com.
black blackground (2021) by no creatorHaggerty Museum of Art
In my experience, it is artists who tell the best stories: they capture moments through their works that shape our world view. I met Rosy Petri more than ten years ago at Alverno College when she was giving an oral presentation. She was a brilliant storyteller. So, it came as no surprise that I instantly connected to With Harp and Sword in Hand, each figure in it, and the moments in which they were captured. Much like Petri, these women are community leaders and advocates.
How did she get here—so confident, so strong, boldly engaging us through her works? More importantly, how did she develop the ability to recognize and portray those same amazing qualities in others and translate this to new audiences through her art?
Here’s a quick story. A little girl enters an art museum for the very first time. She is surrounded by art and one item stands out: a sculpture. The little one moves in for a closer look, and the details she discovers in the materials spark pure joy! Something inside of her is ignited and she will forever be reminded of this day and that feeling. The little girl grows to be a beautiful woman. Art is an integral part of who she has become and how she relates to the world around her.
Let’s imagine the little girl returning to a museum now, as a woman, a community advocate, and an artist. I envision a joyous experience filled with pride and a profound sense of accomplishment at being in such an institution with her works prominently on display. What actually happens is not as I imagined—nor, I am certain, as Petri imagined—it would be. She leaves the space feeling like an outsider, discriminated against, and with a clear sense that her art is appreciated and welcomed in a space where she herself is not.
What I admire about Petri is that despite situations like this, she rises above and shifts the focus back to what is most important: the stories that inspire, motivate, and encourage others to live their lives boldly. Petri challenges us to see these gifts in others. Like Petri, the women she highlights in With Harp and Sword in Hand are propelled by the adversity they have experienced in their lives and careers.
Petri’s recent museum experience made me wonder what the role of the artist is in shifting the ways institutions welcome BIPOC into their spaces. My conclusion: it is not the role of the artist at all. They are already doing their part as the creators and the storytellers. The responsibility to make this shift happen rests squarely with institutions, patrons, and art lovers (like myself).
Thank you to the Nohl Fellowship program and its supporters for shining a light, not just on the works of brilliant artists like my friend Rosy Petri, but on the artist as a person worthy of acknowledgment.
Land and Culture Acknowledgement (2021) by Rosy PetriHaggerty Museum of Art
Land and Culture Acknowledgment
It is important to contextualize this project by acknowledging that many Black folks (but not all) have been twice removed from their home lands: first when taken from the African continent and deposited shackled on the shores of America, stolen by force from the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island. The second removal occurred when families were forced to flee north to avoid the violence of racial terror.
I hope to create a record bearing witness to the African daughters who were raised on the stolen lands of the Menominee, the Ojibwe, and the Potawatomi on the shores of Lake Michi Gami and along the banks of the Kinnickinnic, Menominee, and Milwaukee Rivers.
We, the unseen daughters descended from warriors with powers as mighty as the Mississippi.
We, the daughters of African and Southern earth planted in concrete, clay, loam and silt.
We have survived to grow where we have been planted by remembering those that have come before us.
Invocation Illustration (2021) by Rosy PetriHaggerty Museum of Art
In the name of The One.
The One that continues to birth Restoration
In the midst of chaos and brokenness.
In the name of our Creator.
Our Creator crafting Women who are
Wells that quench
Tables that nourish
Bulldozers that clear
Theses that define
Salves that heal.
Women who are
Prayer and Pathway
Cauldron and Canvas
Nail and Nectar.
Loom and Light.
Women who are Breathing Covenants
Of ancestral promises which will not be denied.
In the name of The Divine
I offer never-ending meditations of thanksgiving
Humbled and Hallowed
Angry and Audacious
Compassionate and Courageous
Storycatcher Illustration (2021) by Rosy PetriHaggerty Museum of Art
Zora Neale Hurston: Storycatcher
With Harp and Sword in Hand was inspired by Zora Neale Hurston, and her work as an ethnographer, cultural anthropologist, and Storycatcher.
Her willingness to bear witness to our culture has been a source of knowledge and inspiration for me. Through these works, I honor her legacy.
Let us be storycatchers, whose voices echo on for Black women in the future, just like Zora.
black blackground (2021) by no creatorHaggerty Museum of Art
The Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston (2021) by Rosy PetriHaggerty Museum of Art
With Harp and Sword in Hand (2021) by Rosy PetriHaggerty Museum of Art
Collaborator (2021) by Rosy PetriHaggerty Museum of Art
With gratitude to Daniel Seung “Pugs” Pugliese, without whose beautiful photography this project would not have been possible.