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'Black Like We Never Left': Celebrating the Artistry of Women of Color

Local Artist Gabrielle Tesfaye interprets the works of Wangechi Mutu.

One local blogger is taking an interesting twist on Black History Month. 

Cree Myles is curating Black Like We Never Left, in which she asks Milwaukee women artists of color to reinterpret and celebrate pieces by nationally-known women artists of color who’ve come before them.

The visual arts component of the project is currently up at CannedBeatz Art Space on the city's south side. 

Gabrielle Tesfaye celebrates Wangechi Mutu

As seen above, local artist Tesfaye reinterprets the work of Wangechi Mutu. Mutu was born in Nairobi, Kenya and lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.  

"I want to talk about black women who invented masterpieces," says Myles. "When we're talking about humans at their best, it's about them creating art that 'we really don't need,' but we do need." 

Yessica Jimenez interprets Harmonia Rosales
Credit Rob Randolph

Milwaukee artist Yessica Jimenez interprets the work of artist Harmonia Rosales.  Chicago-native Rosales is of Afro-Cuban heritage. 

Yessica Jimenez explains her involvement with the project.

Kierston Ghaznavi interprets Mickalene Thomas

Credit Rob Randolph

Kierston Ghaznavi expands on the work of Mickalene Thomas. Thomas is a contemporary New York-based African-American artist, and her works explore issues of race, gender and sexuality. 

Myles says that one of the project's goals is visibility. "You're so used to not seeing [black women], that when you see them, you do a double take, even as one. I'm a black woman, and I'm still surprised when I see a black woman in art, which is crazy!"

Symphony Swan's take on Lena Iris Viktor

Credit Rob Randolph

Symphony Swan reinterprets a piece by Lina Iris Viktor

"As far as representation goes, if you meet a little kid and take them into an art gallery and see this huge oil canvas of someone and they look in they eyes, and they eyes looking back at them are in a body like theirs, they'll feel that..." says Myles. 

Rose Curley celebrates Kara Walker

Credit Rob Randolph

Milwaukee artist Rose Curley takes creative inspiration from Kara Walker, a contemporary painter, silhouettist, print-maker, installation artist, and film-maker.

Beyond the space at Cannedbeatz, Myles is uploading videos of local dancers' interpretations of music by women of color like Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone and open letters to women authors of color to her blog throughout the month of February. 

Do you have a question about race in Milwaukee? Submit it below.


Maayan Silver has been a reporter with WUWM’s News Team since 2018.