Black women have long been the subject of beautiful artwork, whether as a celebration of black hair, black beauty, and the resilience of black women.
We created a list of 5 artists who’ve made it their business to uplift black women through their work.
Detroit native and DC resident, Jamea Richmond-Edwards has been a professional artist and arts educator for the past 11 years. Her work ranges from beautiful charcoal drawings to paintings that often feature black women draped in colorful garments and headpieces. She’s also inspired by religious iconography.
“I was raised Catholic and I always had an interest in religious iconography so it just kind of naturally infused into my work once I began creating subjects with an ethereal like beauty,” she said.
Most recently Richmond-Edwards created a series of portraits titled “The Cost of Making Her Run: Fear, Flight, Freedom” through which she reportedly took on the subject of the crack epidemic in tribute to the women in her life who’ve battled addiction. She says doing the project was about her own self-expression in different ways.
“It was about me coming to face my insecurities or doubts and fears as I navigate through this journey in the art world as an African-American artist. That body of work reflects the mental, spiritual and emotional journey that I went through trying to fight the notion of obscurity. The art world can be very discouraging at times and I felt the need to express that vulnerability that I felt while also celebrating my blackness and femininity.”
Lance Johnson, AKA Ljayart, creates collages with elements of hip-hop culture, jazz, and blues. His artwork is placed in noted restaurants such as Macondo East, Angel Restaurant, and Corner Social in Harlem. He was also commissioned to create a piece for CITYMD on 125th and Lenox Avenue in Harlem.
“I consider my work a conversation between generations,” he said. “When I was 14 years old my mom showed me a documentary called I’ll Make Me a World. It was a celebration of African American Art and artists and I was instantly hooked. I was blown away by the collages of Romare Bearden, paintings of Jacob Lawrence, Aaron Douglas and the poetry and prose of Langston, Claude McKay and Zora Neal Hurston.”
Along with musical elements, you’ll often find an image of a black woman nestled in his intricate collages—sometimes adorned with flowers or colorful manes.
“I’m fascinated by black culture and the quiet strength of black women throughout history. Of course Rosa Park, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth but also Corretta, Maya Angelou, Betty Shabazz and of course my Mother,” he said. I respect the wisdom, the fight and I salute that through my work.”
Andrea Stevens has dabbled in natural hair styling, jewelry making, and crocheting in the past. These days the self taught artist is heavy into quilling, 3d mixed media, or paper crafting as some refer to it.
“When I did my research, I found that we were not represented at all,” she told us. “And on the rare occasion that I did see [the depiction of] a human face it always had long straight wispy hair. Our hair is so beautiful and textured, and I wanted to represent us.”
Through this medium she uses strips of paper to form different hairstyles she attaches to graphic designs of black women. The results are stunning and fun.
Mokshini is an artist of Sri Lankan descent who grew up in New Zealand. After she moved to the U.S., where she landed her dream job as a full time illustrator for Ralph Lauren, she was immediately taken in by the beauty of black women.
“In New Zealand it’s predominately white people and Polynesians. You barely see black people ever,” she said. When I came to America I was so fascinated by the whole concept of [black pride] and it was just so beautiful, the amazing prints, and the women were so expressive about their natural beauty, which I found so refreshing.”
Black women soon became the subject of her illustrations of the street style photos she took at events like Afropunk and Fashion Week.
Maya Smith grew up with a love for fashion. But as she often flipped through Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, she realized early on that there wasn’t enough representation of black women in high fashion. That helped her form a love for creating images of black women.
“I think it’s important to have beautiful imagery of black women that are out there that can be celebrated that’s why I’m creating the show that centers around women’s shapes to celebrate the diversity of the female form,” said the Savannah College of Art and Design graduate.
Recently she participated in an exhibition titled Unveiling Visions: The Alchemy of the Black Imagination for which she created two pieces done in color pencil: one of Toni Morrison and another of Storm from Xmen. That work will now become part of the New York Library archives.