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8 Genius Visual Artists You Should Know

From that fab portrait of FLOTUS to stunning sculptures, masterful mixed media, technicolor textiles and more, these sisters’ works bring color and consciousness to museums and public spaces. 

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gif of photos of artists next to their artworks, Amy Sherald, Kara Walker, Betye Saar
Amy Sherald: Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth/Kelvin Bulluck; Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama: Courtesy the Amy Sherald and Hauser & Wirth/Joseph Hyde; Kara Walker by Ari Marcopoulos; A Subtlety: Courtesy of Kara Walker/Jason Wyche; Betye Saar: Courtesy Getty Images; Lost at Sea: Courtesy Roberts Projects LA
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When we think of Black fine artists, we often think of men like, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jacob Lawrence, Gordon Parks, Romare Beardon. Men who are no longer with us, but have left a lasting legacy. But what about the many Black women creating art reflective of today’s Black experience from her perspective? As a woman, I was interested in discovering woman artists whose work I could relate to. Who are some of the Black women in art that we should all know? We have rounded up a few who are out here creating, evolving and showing their work in cities near you. Their inspirations come from a range of experiences including oppression, racism, sexism and violence as well as beauty, love and innocence - like the innocence seen in the faces of our children, before the world gets to them.

Bisa Butler, 50

City/Hometown: Orange, NJ
Art or craft: Fiber Artist
Media: Butler creates colorful fabric quilts that look like paintings. They beautifully portray Black people from all walks of life, including historical figures.
Famous work: I Go To Prepare A Place For You is based upon a portrait of underground railroad conductor and abolitionist Harriet Tubman. See it at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, DC.
Collectors of their work: Tarana Burke’s memoir, Unbound, features cover art by Butler. The waiting list for her pieces, which command six figures, is years long. Her works are also part of the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in Los Angeles, CA; Pérez Art Museum Miami in Miami, Florida; The Newark Museum of Art in Newark, New Jersey; Hunter Museum of American Art in Chattanooga, Tennessee
Quote: “I’m working with my hands, and it’s direct. It has a soothing property,” Butler told the New York Times.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, 46

City/Hometown: London, England with Ghanaian heritage
Art or Craft: Painter
Media: Oil on Canvas figurative portraits of fictitious people using muted colors, texture and layering.
Famous Work: A Passion Like No Other (2012), a striking portrait currently not on exhibit. It is owned by a private collector and was last shown at the Tate Museum in London in 2023.
Collectors or her work: Include museums such as the Baltimore Museum of Art, MD; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA; Dallas Museum of Art, TX; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; Minneapolis Institute of Art, MN; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Nasher Museum of Art, Durham, NC; The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO; Pérez Art Museum Miami, FL; The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, DC; The Studio Museum in Harlem, NY; Tate Collection, London, UK, to name a few.
Quote: “I work from scrapbooks, I work from images I collect, I work from life a little bit, I seek out the imagery I need. I take photos. All of that is then composed on the canvas,” Yiadom-Boakye said according to the Tate Britain art gallery.

Amy Sherald, 50

City/Hometown: Columbus, Ga.
Art or Craft: Painter
Media: Oil on canvas. Sherald is a contemporary artist known for her intimate and imposing portraits depicting modern Black life.
Famous Work: She was chosen by former first lady Michelle Obama to paint her official portrait which hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. Sherald’s portrait of Breonna Taylor appeared on the 2020 cover of Vanity Fair.
Collectors of her work: The National Portrait Gallery, DC; The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, DC (Portrait of Breonna Taylor); The Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KT and The Hauser & Wirth Gallery, London, UK.
Quote: “My work doesn’t commit Black life to grief. There’s an assumption of a whole Black life being inextricably tied to struggle. I think it becomes all-consuming and really can codify our existence and our whole experience,” Sherald stated according to digital art publisher Arts Help.

Deborah Roberts, 61

City/Hometown: Austin, Tx.
Art or Craft: Collage Artist
Media: Mixed media on paper and canvas with painted details that examine society’s notion of beauty, race and identity through images of Black children.
Famous Work: Facing the Rising Sun, depicts a young boy in an adult prison uniform, representing George Stinney, Jr., a fourteen-year-old wrongfully convicted of killing two white girls in 1944, South Carolina.
Collectors or her work: Her work appeared on the November 2020 cover of Harper’s Bazaar’s art issue and can also be found in the collections of The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Brooklyn Museum, New York; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California. Also, her book Deborah Roberts: Twenty Years of Art/Work is available on
Quote: “If I start with love and innocence and build and build on top of that, people will eventually see that face, find that human experience and make eye contact,” Roberts explained in a video for the Frieze London art fair.

Kara Walker, 54

City/Hometown: Stockton, Calif.
Art or Craft: Contemporary Painter/Silhouettist
Media: Walker’s works are bold mural-style installations. Her black paper cut-out silhouettes, placed against stark white backgrounds, depict the racial injustices as well as the deliberate violence, sexual abuse and degradation of slavery.
Famous Work: The controversial mural silhouette "Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as It Occurred b'tween the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart,” was last installed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, NY in 2010.
Collectors or her work: Top Chef Marcus Samuelsson. His Red Rooster restaurant in Overtown, Fla has a mural by Walker. Other collectors include The Guggenheim Museum of Art, New York and The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. Her book, Kara Walker: A Black Hole Is Everything a Star Longs to Be is available wherever books are sold. Look for her upcoming show July 2024 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Quote: “The silhouette says a lot with very little information, but that’s also what the stereotype does,” Walker told Index Magazine.

Betye Saar, 97

City/Hometown: Los Angeles, Calif.
Art or Craft: Collage and Assemblage
Media: Collages made with found objects that explore themes of racism and oppression.
Famous Work: The Liberation of Aunt Jemima (1972), depicts Aunt Jemima toting a rifle and a broom. The piece, the artists says, speaks out against the oppression of Black people in America. See it at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, in Berkeley, CA.
Collectors of her work: Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; the Studio Museum in Harlem, NY; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and her current show, “Drifting Toward Twilight” through November 30, 2025 at the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, CA.
Quote: “I'm the kind of person who recycles materials but I also recycle emotions and feelings. And I had a great deal of anger about the segregation and the racism in this country,” Saar said according to the African American Museum of Iowa.

Faith Ringgold, 93

City/Hometown: Harlem, NY
Art or Craft: Painted Textile Story Quilts
Media: Political quilts which combine painting and quilted fabric inspired by African art and illustrating the racial tensions defining the Black America.
Famous Work: Her narrative quilt “Tar Beach,” is on display at the Guggenheim Museum in New York and inspired her children’s book by the same name. She is also known for her glass mosaic mural adorning the wall of the 125th St. subway station in Harlem, NY.
Collectors of her work: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum NY, National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, The Colby College Museum of Art in Maine.
Quote: “I think most people understand quilts and not a lot of people understand paintings. But yet they're looking at one. When they're looking at my work, they're looking at a painting and they're able to accept it better because it is also a quilt,” Ringgold told PBS.

Simone Leigh, 56

City: Chicago, Il
Art or Craft: Sculpture
Media: Ceramic and Bronze sculptures that depict Black women engaged in laborious tasks as a testament to the strong, yet often overlooked, Black women whose work contributed to American history.
Famous Work: “Satellite” (2022), a work in bronze which was the centerpiece for her historic Venice Biennale show, in Venice, Italy, the world’s oldest international contemporary art exhibition, where she represented the U.S. and was the first Black woman to do so. The piece is currently part of a traveling exhibition of her work, which just wrapped up at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. and will soon be on display as a joint presentation at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the California African American Museum in Los Angeles (May 26, 2024-January 20, 2025).
Collectors or her work: Venus Williams, the High Line park in New York,
the Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, The Tate Gallery, London; the Studio Museum in Harlem; and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.
Quote: “I wanted to be anything but an artist. I thought I was asking for a life of poverty and strife, which I had already had enough of...But one thing I did know was ceramics. And I couldn’t stop making things,” Leigh shared in an interview with the Financial Times.

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