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Phoenix S. Brown, Our Florals, 2021.  Acrylic, ink, and collaged watercolor paintings on paper, 55 x 41 inches.

Installation view with Ashley Lusietto Honey Doll sculptures


Ashley Lusietto, The World Moves for Love, 2022. Gouache on paper, 10 x 7 inches.


Ashley Lusietto, Licorice, 2022. Papier mache

Can't Stand the Rain
Phoenix S. Brown and Ashley Lusietto
January 20 through March 11, 2023
Hours: Thursday-Saturday noon to 5 p.m. 

Portrait Society Gallery is pleased to present Can’t Stand the Rain: Phoenix S. Brown and Ashley Lusietto. 


Phoenix S. Brown and Ashley Lusietto are Wisconsin based artists with interests in presenting narrative content in oblique, intuitive, reflective ways.  Phoenix S. Brown’s often large compositions on paper or unstretched canvas build fractured scenes through a process of collage, layering, and painting. She adds, erases, re-positions, stitches together, pastes, or possibly adds faux fur to cultivate an energized, dynamic surface. Bursts of stylized fire, oversized shoes, bouquets of flowers, and the stone or wall patterns of an urban world become visual markers of emotion and recollection. “There might be 30 paintings under there,” Brown said, describing her process of working and re-working. Sorrow, forgiveness, and self preservation are recurring themes, but Brown also re-appropriates notions of darkness as a symbol of evil. She states, “These works reclaim Blackness as a righteous force to reckon with…I build contemporary re-imaginations of utopias and resistances where Black womanhood is free from stereotypes, fetishes, and the white male gaze.”


This is Ashley Lusietto’s second major exhibition at Portrait Society Gallery. Her recent dream-like paintings have moved toward abstraction. Similar to Brown’s work, they dip into memory and myth, pulling motifs from nature to create twilight settings of spirit beings and animals. Lusietto considers her work autobiographical but the stories are never direct: Hints are scattered as symbolic elements that the viewer can decode as they choose. Her new group of graphite drawings muse over the form of an antique trophy, pulling and distorting it to morph into female body-like shapes. Lusietto said she created these drawings through an unplanned, automatic, almost trancelike, meditative process. The exhibition also includes new papier mache and mixed media figures and animals. Whimsically distorted and gestural, these captivating free standing, colorfully painted forms fully embody animated personalities.

Lusietto said that her work often “responds to heartbreak and bad relationships. I do so through a lens of humor — through funny, lightly sexual shapes and plays on words. My art is taking some random thing that happened and making it into something monumental, a magical experience. I’m trying to imbed meaning in little things.”

Bio: Phoenix S Brown graduated from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design in 2019 with an art history minor and focus on painting. In 2018, she was a resident artist at Yale Norfolk School of Art. Brown was awarded an individual artist grant by gener8tor Art and was an artist-in-residence at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati in 2021. She currently works in her studio in Milwaukee and leads the curatorial department at the Charles Allis and Villa Terrace art museums as Senior Curator. Her work has been exhibited nationally and in New American Paintings. 


Bio: Ashley Lusietto earned her MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2013. In 2022, she was a Fellow at the Penland School of Craft, Penland, NC. She was artist-in-residence at the ArtServancy and The Bubbler in Madison, both in 2021. Ashley was mentored by Della Wells through the MARN program in Milwaukee. She has taught at Mount Mary University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Solo exhibitions include Marian Gallery at Mount Mary University; Portrait Society Gallery; Arts & Lit Lab, Madison. From 2019 to 2022, she was the Program Coordinator for Wormfarm Institute, Reedsburg, WI. 

Phoenix Brown, Water Under the Bridge,  54 x 79.png

Phoenix S. Brown, Water Under the Bridge, 2022 Acrylic, oil pastel, and ink on paper 54” x 79”


Phoenix S. Brown, What Do I Think I Am, 2018 
Acrylic, newsprint, oil pastel, cotton fringe, on sewn canvas, 84 x 60 inches

Original Betty.jpg
Ashley Lusietto, After Two Mistakes, .png

Ashley Lusietto
Left: Original Betty, 2022. Flashe and acrylic medium on panel, 14 x 11 inches
Right: After Two Mistakes, 2022. Gouache on paper, 10 x 7 inches


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