Beyond Van Gogh: Highlighting Black Women Artists

by Evette Dionne

A masterful stroke transforms blank canvases into masterpieces. This is the life of painters, some of our culture’s most creative folks. Painters are masters of viewing the world through a different lens; trees and skies are awakened on their canvases. The world dances. Excellent painters are like Whitney Houston’s voice in the ’90s: stirring, poignant, soulful.

Art is also lucrative. Paintings appreciate in value as they age, unlike cars, houses and necklaces. One of the first things Swizz Beatz teaches his artists and colleagues, including his wife Alicia Keys, is the value of art. Even media moguls realize the power of paintings. “Diddy will call me for a little advice on a painting,” Beatz told The New York Times. “He has a lot of amazing Peter Beards that I’m trying to get away from him.”

But art isn’t exclusive to the wealthiest among us. There is an elite legion of accessible black women with a knack for watercolors and acrylics. We don’t have to visit major auction houses to purchase their work, either. No cheese and wine at Art Basel Miami Beach or the Armory. A lot of their paintings are available through one-to-one selling markets, including Etsy and eBay.

When Americans envision painters, we see Vincent van Gogh and Jean-Michel Basquiat, but the black women featured in this list are reimagining our existence through paint. They are worth highlighting.

Mickalene Thomas

Mickalene Thomas

New York-based artist Mickalene Thomas is an exquisite painter. Instead of just using oils and acrylics, Thomas incorporates rhinestones and enamel in her work. The Yale alumna reimagines women by expanding idealistic notions of beauty and popular culture to capture our complexities. Her work has been featured in solo and collaborative exhibitions from Vermont to France.

Brianna McCarthy

Brianna McCarthy

Afro-Caribbean women are often excluded from accurate representations in all aspects of media, including art. But Brianna McCarthy, a mixed-media artist, is shifting that paradigm. She uses her talent to examine the intricacies of Afro-Caribbean women by subverting stereotypes and manipulating constructions of gender and race. McCarthy splits her time between Trinidad and Tobago, but her work is featured in collections throughout the United States and the United Kingdom.



Clorama embodies the “black is beautiful” mantra. She showcases the beauty of women of color as a response to the lack of representation we experience. “The reason I decided to sell mainly women of color in my art is because even though African art, traditional black American art (especially related to civil rights and justice) is represented in the world of art, not very much art is represented for the modern young women of color that showcases their unique beauty – with clothes on,” she writes in her bio. Clorama uses vibrant color schemes to liven up spaces. I have two of her paintings hanging in my bathroom.

Keutrah Ariel

Keturah Ariel

Keturah Ariel possesses an elusiveness that makes her art more purposeful. Her bio is four sentences: “We are all here for a purpose. Our mission is to discover exactly what our purpose entails. Mine is to create art. I was born with a paint brush in hand,” but her portraits of her vibrant black kids with braids and kinks brings her mission to life. She captures the innocence of childhood before the world strips black kids of the right to exist without complication. It is splendid.

Wangechi Mutu

Wangechi Mutu

Kenyan-born artist extraordinaire Wangechi Mutu indulges in forbidden fruit with her mixed-media masterpieces. Exploring the boundaries of black women’s sexuality with everything from magazines to paint, Mutu weaves the realities and the illusions of intimacy well. For her, it is storytelling, a way to intertwine culture and distortion. The 41-year-old artist resides in New York City and has exhibited her work throughout the world.



    I LOVE LOVE Mickalene Thomas work, she captures African American Women so Beautifuly.

  • omfg

    not too long ago, i was in new orleans. i visited a gallery with chagalls, murakamis and lots of other well-known artist you study in art class. i was shocked to discover that i could have something for around $10,000 or little less. a marc chagall or murakami for $10,000? wow.

    that is still not a small chunk of change but let’s just say that’s a credit card charge. i guess i’m saying that good quality art is a lot more affordable than you might think. and, the prices on murakamis and chagalls and french masters, etc. aren’t exactly going down.

    but i’ve been trying to find a relatively known to unknown black artist. i’d like to purchase their work.

    btw, shinique smith has a children’s exhibit/project with lacma in la right now.

  • Allie

    This is awesome I love seeing my fellow artist.

  • T.

    So excited to see Brianna McCarthy represented here – I am so proud to own some of her wonderful art. Glad to learn about some other talented black women artists too. I will be checking out their work.

  • Val

    Love it! Go Black women artists!

  • Chic Noir


    I was just introduced to four new Black artists. I read a few major interviews with Mutu in Vogue magazine. I think Mutu and Kara Walker are perhaps the most well known Black female artists working now. As for Black men, I think Kehinde Wiley is the most well known.

    Anyway, thanks again

  • Chic Noir

    Look into Toyin Odutola’s work. She is a very talented artist who is on the rise.

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  • Tonya Gladney Peterson

    Another artist to look at is April Harris her works are amazing!

  • Coconut + Cream

    YAAAAAAAAASSSS!!!! Love all these women. I wish more was done to highlight their talents and other artists that may not have as much recognition.



  • au napptural

    This is a wonderful article. This is what I come to Clutch for- empowering stuff on black women I might not otherwise know. More, please.

  • LolaChi

    Yes & Kara Walker

  • Marketing Gimmicks

    There’s also the amazing Kara Walker and photographer from Harlem Melinda Lewis…

  • justanotheropinion

    Thank You Thank you Thank You for showcasing these artists. Was a bright spot in my day of a deluge of news & crap. THIS is some of what I come to Clutch every day to discover.

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