What is it?


Rosemary Ollison (b. Portland, Arkansas 1943)


Taking Leather to the Limit




Leather, fabric, beads 


144 x 36 x 36

Credit line

Lent 2020, Courtesy of Portrait Society Gallery

About the Work


Rosemary Ollison was sixteen when she moved to Milwaukee in 1959. She was raised on a plantation in Arkansas, in her words, “two steps above slavery.” The traumatic conditions of her childhood, an abusive marriage, and the indignities frequently suffered by women of color left a lasting mark; Ollison struggled with self-worth for many years. In 1994, when Ollison was in her fifties, she came into possession of a sketchpad and some magic markers. Inspiration was immediate and effortless. Within a year and a half, she had created some two thousand images.

As a self-taught artist, Ollison is unhindered by inherited prejudices about what materials are suitable for art-making. Her works are often riotous assemblages of found objects. Taking Leather to the Limit incorporates scraps of leather and fabric sourced from local resale stores. The cascading strips of leather stream down like a waterfall suspended in motion. The colorful work captures the infectious joy that Ollison derives from pure acts of creativity.