Category: Faith Ringgold

This year, for Black History month, we salute not the political activists or barrier breakers, but some distinguished African-American painters, sculptors and photographers–accentuating, of course, those with the most interesting names.

These Black history names range in time from portrait painter Joshua Johnson, born in 1763 and viewed as the first person of color to make his living as an artist in America, to contemporary women artists like Lorna Simpson, Ellen Gallagher and Kara Walker who confront issues of race head-on in their work.

The following is, of course, just a small representation of the countless distinguished artists of color.


Adrian Piper—(b.1948) an artist who introduces issues of race and gender into her conceptual art.  Note the conventionally male spelling of her name, rather than the usual feminine Adrienne.

Alma Thomas—(b.1891), moved from realistic to more abstract, expressionist paintings, two of which were chosen by Michelle Obama for the White House.

Augusta Savage— (b.1892), a sculptor who was part of the Harlem Renaissance.  Students in her Harlem studio included Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight. She chose the unusual spelling of Agnus as her daughter’s name.

Carrie Mae Weems—(b. 1953) , an award-winning mixed-media artist whose work incorporates photography, fabric, digital images and video, much it exploring black family life, racism and gender issues.

Chakaia Booker—(b.1953), an assemblage artist who has worked with a variety of materials, including black rubber tires, said to address African-American identity.

Clementine Hunter  (b.1886)–pronounced clem-en-TEEN,  just like Mrs. Winston Churchill—  was originally named Clemence.  A self-taught  Louisiana Creole folk artist who began painting in her fifties, her work depicts plantation life in the early 20th century.

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