Tyanna Buie’s exuberance defies her difficult history. Her family was unstable. The aunt she lived with was abusive, and a subsequent series of foster homes made life unpredictable. Yet, Buie, at age 29, has blazed into the local art community. By age 5, she discovered art as a safe mental retreat. After earning her master’s of fine arts in printmaking from UW-Madison in 2010, Buie moved to Milwaukee. She volunteered at art centers and worked at Goodwill Industries until a position opened at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. Now, she’s everywhere: the Mary L. Nohl Fellowship show (she’s the first African-American woman to win a Nohl), the Wisconsin Triennial, the Milwaukee Art Museum.
Technically, she’s a screen printer, the lowliest in the hierarchy of printing techniques. But she also paints and collages onto her prints, summoning luminous fields of pattern and image, both elegant and decayed. Her work deals with her personal history. A series of profile portraits in printed, oval, gilded frames, were images of family members culled from mugshots.com. The large prints hung loose from the wall, curling slightly at the bottom, overlapping a little, as if temporary, like aging shingles. While Buie’s content may be personal, her work succeeds because its emotional conditions are universal. The work hits home, no matter where we live.