In celebration of the exhibition Butterfly Queens, Portrait Society Gallery of Contemporary Art, Imagine MKE, and the Milwaukee Artist Resource Network invite Milwaukee creatives and art supporters to a reception mixer + artist talk from preeminent local artists Rosemary Ollison and Della Wells. The mixer will take place within the exhibition at the PSG starting at 5PM, followed by a talk hosted at the nearby MARN ART + CULTURE HUB starting at 7PM, and moderated by local artist Ariana Vaeth.  

All are welcome!

Refreshments will be served at the PSG. Each guest will receive a seasonal beverage at MARN.  

Please RSVP to   

About the Artists:  

Portrait Society Gallery of Contemporary Art is thrilled to present a new exhibition of two of Wisconsin’s most prominent artists: Rosemary Ollison and Della Wells. This is the first time the gallery has presented Ollison and Wells’ work together.  

Rosemary Ollison (b. 1942) is a self-taught artist who lives in Milwaukee, WI. When she was 16 years old she moved to the midwest from a plantation in Arkansas where she had lived with her grandparents. She began making art in 1994 while healing from an abusive marriage. Most of her work deals thematically with her identity as a Black women and celebrates the power, individuality, and mystique of all women. 

Rosemary creates quilts and fiber works while maintaining a steady drawing and journaling practice. She has built a lively, elegant, pattern-rich environment in her apartment with duct tape sculptures; curtains of beads; woven leather hanging sculptures and necklaces; quilts; and inventive drawings. She also designs clothing and writes poetry. Her exuberant self-made world is a tribute to the hardships she has overcome and the power she feels as a Black woman.  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!” 

Butterfly Queens presents a room-sized installation of new fabric hanging sculptures as well as a suite of drawings that have never before been exhibited. Thematically, the textiles deal with Ollison’s thoughts about personal imprisonment and her long fight toward liberation of body and mind.  

Della Wells (b. 1951) is one of Wisconsin’s best known artists. She began making art at age 42 and has steadfastly grown her career. Primarily known as a collage artist, Wells also makes drawings and mixed media constructions. Butterfly Queens presents a new group of collages as well as new drawings from her “Little Colored Girl” series. Wells’ collages flow within a narrative cycle that takes place in the fictitious world of Mambo Land. Jenée-Daria Strand, curatorial assistant at the Brooklyn Museum, recently wrote that Wells’ work ‘. . .centralizes women of the African diaspora, who are consistently rendered invisible and relegated to the margins of society. . .Della Wells’s works serve as a counter-narrative to the societal rhetoric that encourages conforming to a mutable ideal. Instead, the artist imagines an escape to a place where community is fostered in light of difference, not in spite of it.” 

Wells incorporates many recurring symbols in her collages. During the past few years, butterflies have been a frequent motif to symbolize freedom, emancipation, and re-birth.