Evelyn Patricia Terry: America's Favor/Guests Who Came to Dinner (and Stayed!)

April 28, 2019 - July 28, 2019

Evelyn Patricia Terry, In America, Wandering and Saving Souls
In America, Wandering and Saving Souls, 2018. Pastel, ink, thread, acrylic paint on rag paper, 15 3/8” x 10 3/4" (unframed). Photo by Fonde Patrice Bridges with Dean Johnson.

“America”—from its origins to daily news reports of racial and ethnic differences--is a recurrent theme in Evelyn Patricia Terry’s work. Over the course of her more than fifty-year career, she has made several bodies of work that address the “conundrum of co-existence that repeatedly occupies the news, my thoughts, and many conversations.” In America’s Favor/Guests Who Came to Dinner (and Stayed!), the most recent in a series of exhibitions on the theme, Terry brings together different bodies of work: an iconic table installation, artist books, and mixed media works that layer drawings and other forms of mark-making on sewn rag paper pieces. Terry has mined her five-decade history as an artist to create the exhibition by repurposing the torn and cut sections of etchings, screen-prints, monotypes, and randomly printed rag paper scraps that she has accumulated as a printmaker, and by referencing items in her personal collection, from ethnic dolls to the work of other artists.

Terry has returned to “America” several times over the years, and its episodic manifestations can be read as a kind of diary. In 1996, working with the Haggerty Museum of Art, Terry created her first table installation, Guess/Guests Who Came to Dinner, at the (former) Watts Tea Shop. This original dinner table featured mismatched plates, assorted stemware, various ethnic dolls, and a Reverend Farmer Statue of Liberty sculpture from her art collection. For Guests Who Came to Dinner (and Stayed), made for Pure Black, an exhibition Terry co-curated with Della Wells at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Union Art Gallery in 2004, she expanded the installation, placing written words and healthy raw foods--ginger, garlic, lemons--on each plate. She took up the theme again in two series of artist books America’s Favor and America: Guests Who Came to Dinner and Stayed. Most recently, Terry was invited to display the dinner table at the Mobile Design Box, a local alternative space, and to fill the empty walls with two-dimensional work that could be hung with pins or tacks. Working on short notice and with these restrictions, Terry elected to use the space as a studio to produce a new body of work. She searched out all the marked-up rag paper pieces she had filed and saved over the years and began sewing them together. She then made drawings on the sewn substrates featuring images of men and women in “country of origin” native dress—a reference to her doll collection. The figures are drawn alone or coupled, sometimes in strange inter-ethnic relationships and sometimes together with “their own kind.” Text, too, has been an essential and continuous element in the “America” series, appearing on plates, across book pages, on cards, and in titles that provide clues to the artist’s thoughts. For this exhibition, Terry will be producing new books and mixed media works.

America's Favor/Guests Who Came to Dinner (and Stayed!) is the latest entry in Terry’s diary, an up-to-the moment index of the artist’s aesthetic and material interests, her personal concerns, and her view of the world she lives in.

About the Artist
Evelyn Patricia Terry is a full time professional visual artist, presenter, writer and art collector based in Milwaukee. She works across many media: printmaking, drawing, painting, installation, and public art. During her long career, she has garnered awards, fellowships, grants, and commendations for community work with students and other artists. Concentrating on printmaking, she earned both a BFA and an MS in Visual Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She earned an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago after Ruth Milofsky, a UW-Milwaukee arts education professor and mentor, set up a fund to give her a deadline to go back to school so she might be better prepared as an artist.

In 2012, Terry received the Wisconsin Visual Artist Lifetime Achievement Award from a Wisconsin consortium of art and humanity organizations. In 2014 the Milwaukee Arts Board honored her with their Artist of the Year Award. Terry’s work is internationally exhibited and collected; over 400 private, corporate, and public collections own her artwork including the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Museum of Wisconsin Art, the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University, the Racine Art Museum and the Wright Museum of Art at Beloit College. From 2016 through 2018, several universities acquired Terry’s hand-constructed artists’ books. In 2009, influenced by Dr. Margaret Burroughs, a visual artist, poet, and founder of the DuSable Museum of African American History, and by Chicago art consultant Susan Woodson, Terry founded the Terry McCormick Contemporary Fine and Folk Art Gallery, a home-based gallery, following the death of her partner, self-taught folk artist George Ray McCormick, Sr.

©2010 Lynden Sculpture Garden