Five Female African American Artists You Should Know About

Everyone talks about today’s female African American singers, actresses, and screenwriters, but there’s one sub-category of the entertainment world that they seem to have forgotten: art itself. Painting, sculpting, knitting, and visual representations of art have been a part of the ‘entertainment’ industry for quite some time and the lasting effect that these ways of expression can have, shouldn’t be forgotten. African American artists may not be talked about in everyday conversation, but they’re definitely worth mentioning, especially on the female front. There are certainly more than a few female African American painters, sculptors and visual artists and the diversity of their work can be seen in a number of ways. However, the six ladies that I am going to talk about have very distinct, unique, and individual styles and some have even been creating masterpieces for most of their life.


1. Faith Ringgold

Faith Ringgold began painting in the 70s and her use of acrylic on fabric demonstrated her individuality. She was inspired by the Civil Rights Movement and many of her works depict scenes of racism, oppression, and inequality. Her art is a political representation of what was and still is. She also uses her art as a way to tell stories such as the importance of family, origin, and heritage (Faith Ringgold, ‘A Biography’).


2. Kara Walker

Kara Walker is best known for her silhouetted figures along walls that tell a story and bring awareness to issues such as race, gender, sexuality, and violence. Her work has been featured in a number of galleries in New York, Minnesota, Chicago, London, and Rome. Her distinct style shows dark figures in a number of positions and locations, the contrasting midnight colors she uses against a light backdrop have a powerful visual effect (Kara Walker Studio, ‘Biography’).



3. Mickalene Thomas

Thomas is a jack of many trades. Her official website,, showcases the many styles of her work from photographs to video and film. Thomas sculpts, paints, photographs, creates print compilations and constructs collages. Her photographs are paradoxical, some being subtle black and white and others having a juxtaposition of colors like yellow, blue and pink. Her works primarily feature women of color and include bright colors and patterns as a backdrop for her many models.


4. Chakaia Booker

Booker is a sculptor and uses her works to draw awareness to racial and economic concerns, globalization and gender. Her jagged and twisted sculptures are created from recycled tires and she has been using this medium since the early 90s. She uses tires to produce contorted visual effects and to represent the flexibility and diversity of culture and history (National Museum of Women in the Arts, Chakaia Booker).


5. Julie Mehretu

Mehretu was born in Ethiopia in 1970 and has used her heritage as a means for expressing the hidden complexities behind certain landscapes and locales. Her artwork shows not only the obvious happenings in areas throughout the US but the history behind them and the history of these locations that may have been overlooked or forgotten. She explains the politicization of certain places in her work and addresses hard-hitting issues that have shaped the West like colonialism, abolition, and protests (Art 21, Julie Mehretu).


All of these women show their passion for creating art with a message and a meaning. Their styles, artistic flexibility and use of mediums for political and societal awareness are inspiring and creative. Their works can be found around the world and these five different African American female artists have been awarded for the quality of their work and compelling stories that they tell. Recognizing the dexterity and power of African American artists’ work and understanding the narrative behind such work is important and necessary to exploring artistic avenues and how each artist contributes greatly to the ongoing political and socioeconomic conversation.


Photo Credit: 1, 2 & 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9