Four of the Most Inspiring African-American Textile Artists

Four of the Most Inspiring African-American Textile Artists

Posted in Design

Textile art is an old form of craft which spreads beyond the borders of art into fashion, science, and technology. Since the women’s liberation movement, it underwent its own revolution with artists questioning what can be considered a textile and how a textile can be considered art. Contemporary textile art is more often a conceptual tool, influenced by postmodernist ideals and the experimental spirit of the artists who confront social and political issues.

Nowadays, many textile artists use techniques such as weaving, knitting, screen printing, repurposing found materials, and much more. From pioneering figures to emerging creatives, they are reinventing the medium by bringing new materials and aesthetics to their textile-based creations. Some of them are fashion-focused, while others make everything from innovative home decor items to immersive fabric-based installations.

Faith Ringgold

Art Style: Figurative
Technique: Quilting
Media: Quilts, Painting, Sculpture

Faith Ringgold was born in New York City, New York, in 1930. She started her painting career in the 1950s, designing works influenced by social movements such as feminism and civil rights. In 1972, she switched to textile art after a visit to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Upon her return, Ringgold began working on painted quilts depicting the story of an African-American women sold into slavery. She also collaborated with her mother, a popular Harlem clothing designer, to create Echoes of Harlem (1980) – a series of quilt stories on African-American women. Most of her painted story quilts are autobiographical and artistic, some of which went on to inspire the children books that she later made.

Echoes of Harlem by Faith Ringgold

We Came to America by Faith Ringgold

Karen Hampton

Art Style: Abstract
Technique: Weaving, Dyeing, Embroidery
Media: Cloth

Karen Hampton was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1958. She was introduced to sewing and embroidery in her youth, and learned other textile techniques through her art studies at the university. Her works combine multiple techniques resulting in art pieces which reference themes of slavery and genealogy. Through her abstracts, Hampton reflects on the history of female slaves and the forgotten American textile production. She draws on her own family history as well as own life experience to infuse her artworks with story that could resonate with the viewers as in Who Shall Remember (2019) and Washer Woman (2019).

Who Shall Remember by Karen Hampton

Washer Woman by Karen Hampton

Bisa Butler

Art Style: Portraiture
Technique: Quilting
Media: Quilts

Bisa Butler was born in Orange, New Jersey, in 1973. She studied painting and art education with an interest for fiber art. Inspired by the textile artworks of Faith Ringgold, her work is reminiscent of the African-American quilting tradition. Her large-scale quilts feature portraits of prominent figures in Black history as well as everyday people based on photographs such as Daughter of the Dust (2020). Butler uses various patterned fabrics carefully selected to reflect the life of her subjects, sometimes using clothing they have worn. She likes creating art pieces of anonymous subjects so that viewers can connect with them and learn their stories too.

Daughter of the Dust by Bisa Butler

Dear Mama by Bisa Butler

Diedrick Brackens

Art Style: Figurative, Abstract
Technique: Quilting, Weaving
Media: Tapestry

Diedrick Brackens was born in Mexia, Texas, in 1989. He was first introduced to the discipline of weaving at the university, and later explored other forms of textile artistry including quilting and tapestry-making. His work addresses topics of black history and queer identity, influenced by his country’s southern folk art and Western mythology. Brackens often uses silhouetted black figures along with recurring motifs, alluding to larger allegorical and social narratives as seen in Demigod (2019). Created with woven cotton and acrylic yarn, his large tapestries are reminiscent of the material’s complex history as well as the work of traditional West African weavers.

Demigod by Diedrick Brackens

Flying Geese by Diedrick Brackens


Posted in Design  |  June 19, 2021