Brooklyn 100: Elise Peterson, Founder of Black Folk Series

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Elise Peterson’s #blackfolk series is a collection of digital collages that incorporates black icons like Tupac and Grace Jones into famous classical artwork by artists like Matisse. Her collages provide often unrepresented communities an opportunity to see people who look like they do in what have traditionally and overwhelmingly been white spaces.
Tell me a little bit about the path that brought you to where you are today–both in your career, and in life.
I wanted to be one of two things growing up: an artist or a preacher. I’ve weaved in and out various career paths, but they have all seemed to circle back to those two.
Who would be your choice for this Brooklyn Culture list?
Anyone who is taking risks.
Why was it important for you to start this series?
I initially wanted to push myself by creating new work daily. As the series evolved, it became a vessel for self-discovery.
What has the response been towards the Black Folk series?
Overwhelmingly positive. I feel super supported by an online community as well as my folks in Brooklyn.
How do your pieces fit into the larger conversation on black representation in media?
The driving force behind all of the work I create is to challenge the prescribed black narrative, raise the expectation of work from a black woman, and reformulate how we (black people) define ourselves specifically in regard to our identity and sexuality. Mainstream media is finally catching up to the notion that people of the African Diaspora are not a singular note.
How do you choose which icons and art pieces to collage?
I go with my gut. All of the figures that I have depicted personally resonate with me. It’s like vintage shopping. You have to rummage through a lot of potentials, but the right piece always finds you.
To see the rest of the 100 Most Influential People in Brooklyn Culture list, please visit here.

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