Black Excellence

10 Black Women Artists To Know

Black women artists might just might be the most overlooked group in art.

Through the decades, black women have used art to capture the joy, the pain, and the glory of black culture, among other things.

Yes, they are painters and sculptures, but they are also true documentarians of black life. 

The list we have for you below is just a sample of this extraordinary group. 

Laura Wheeler Waring 

The Harlem Renaissance, 1920s, Laura Wheeler Waring.

Wheeler Waring was a renowned painter who lived during the Harlem Renaissance. She was an NAACP member and worked for the publication entitled The Crisis as an illustrator.

Waring is best-known for her beautiful portraits of prominent African Americans such as James Weldon Johnson, Marian Anderson, and Jessie Fauset.  

Gwendolyn Bennett 

Gwendolyn Bennett’s “Untitled (River Landscape),” 1931

Often overlooked, Gwendolyn Bennett was another great artist from the Harlem Renaissance. She was a painter, a poet, and a writer who worked together with numerous intellectuals, including Alain Locke.

Bennett contributed with several drawings, cover illustrations, and writings to NAACP’s The Crisis as well as to Urban League’s Opportunity magazines. In addition to her art, she was also a journalist for New York Amsterdam NewsNew York Herald Tribune, and New York Herald Tribune

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Faith Ringgold 

Faith Ringggold, Jazz Stories: Mama Can Sing and Papa Can Blow

Faith Ringgold is a political painter, mixed media sculptor, writer, performance artist, and civil rights activist. She is famous for her narrative quilts and her determination to depict the struggles Black people deal with in the US.

Back in the 1960s, Ringgold created American People, a series that is focused on the civil rights movement from the black woman’s perspective. Her art is often inspired by African culture.   

Kara Walker 

Kara Walker – Renaissance society installation, 1997 – Image via

Kara Walker is an American contemporary painter, printmaker, silhouettist, filmmaker, and installation artist. She addresses identity, race, violence, stereotypes, gender, Black history, and sexuality in her work.

Walker became famous for her controversial works, especially for her signature black cut-paper silhouettes tableaux. She has won the genius grant offered by John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. 

Augusta Savage 

Lift Every Voice and Sing, Inscribed (“Augusta Savage”)

This African American sculptor associated with the Harlem Renaissance was the very first black artist to join the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors. She was also a teacher and inspired the careers of a flourishing generation of artists. Moreover, she was a champion of equal rights for black people in the arts. 

Toyin Odutola  

Odutola is a visual artist who was born in Nigeria but currently lives and works in New York. She is known for her unique way of exploring identity as well as the sociopolitical skin concept through her work. Her drawings are inspired by her fascinating journey of being born in Nigeria and moving to the United States. 

Odutola treats skin as topography, showing what it means to look and be perceived as black. her work also examines undermining blackness notions. All her paintings are made with black ink. 

Elizabeth Catlett

Elizabeth Catlett was a black sculptor and graphic artist who depicted the experiences of African Americans during the 20th century. She was the grandchild of freed slaves and became one of the best multi-disciplined artists of her time. In addition, Catlett was the first artist to earn an MFA sculpture degree from the University of Iowa.  

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye 

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye is a very talented painter and writer of Ghanaian descent who was born and still lives in London, England. She paints portraits of fictional subjects, mostly inspired by people and magazine photos.

Lynette’s works lack a fixed narrative and have mysterious, unusual titles such as Citrine by the Ounce and A Passion Like No Other

Ellen Gallagher 

Ellen Gallagher is a successful African American artist whose medium include paintings, films, works on paper, and videos. Her work has been shown in several solo and group exhibitions. They can also be admired in many permanent collections of numerous major museums.

Some of Gallagher’s pieces address race issues and nicely combine racial stereotypes with formality, depicting the society-imposed principles.  

Betye Saar 

Betye Saar is an African American artist who became famous as a printmaker, visual storyteller. She is also highly appreciated for her work in the medium of assemblage. During the 1970s, Saar was part of the Black Arts Movement.

Saar’s work often challenges negative ideas about black people.  

Whose are are you investing in? Let us know below. 

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Delia is a writer who has a great passion for writing in-depth articles on various social issues. She has written both editorial and lengthy research pieces for numerous publications over the years.

She loves her job and celebrates her accomplishments every morning with a big cup of coffee.