Milwaukee woman's art; she turned trauma into celebrated career

Step inside Rosemary Ollison's Milwaukee home and her art is everywhere. Her drawings and poetry cover the walls. The counters are color-coordinated chaos. Everything has a home and purpose.

"I have to have it like this in order to create," Ollison said.

Ollison creates large and mesmerizing art from a small seat and sewing machine next to her bed.

"I describe myself, not as an artist, but as a creative person that creates everything," Ollison said in late 2022.

Ollison grew up on a plantation in Arkansas. She moved to Milwaukee as a teenager – and she began making art while healing from an abusive relationship.

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"I was married for seven years and never cooked a meal. I don’t know how to drive. I don’t know how to do nothing," Ollison said. "That’s what I was looking for. This person who was inside me. I was like, 'God, who do you see?' The art -- that’s how I see who I am."

Rosemary Ollison

Faith is the foundation of Ollison's life and work.

"It’s a constant relationship with God. It’s constant," Ollison said.

Ollison's work was recently featured in an exhibited at the Portrait Society Art Gallery with her friend and fellow artist Della Wells.

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"It’s unbelievable that she can think this conceptually and this monumentally," said Debra Brehmer, Portrait Society Gallery owner.

Debra Brehmer, Portrait Society Gallery owner

Ollison hopes people have a feeling when they see her work.

"For you to see yourself in some of my work. If it’s just one person I’ve accomplished what I desire," Ollison said.