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Black Artists Represented in the Mint's Collection





David Drake (1800-1865) 


Pottery is recognized as an important craft in North and South Carolina, but the traditional narrative often centers white Europeans. David Drake's history reveals a more complicated narrative. In the 19th century, pottery companies in Edgefield, South Carolina were run by white men, but the artworks were made by Black enslaved people. While there is not much information about Drake's life, we know that he used language as a form of resistance. In 1834, South Carolina passed a law stating that it was illegal for enslaved people to learn how to read and write. When looking at his pieces today, you can see short poems and Drake's signature across the vessels. Drake gained freedom in 1863 with the Emancipation Proclamation, but did not receive credit or compensation for these works during his lifetime.




Minnie Evans (1892-1987)


Evans was born in Long Creek, North Carolina, but spent much of her life in Wilmington. Until she was 43 years old, Evans did not draw or paint, but began after she heard a voice saying to "draw or die." Much of her inspiration came from her dreams, visions, God, and the lush environment of the Airlie Gardens where she worked. Additionally, Evans used imagery from the Caribbean because she had traced her ancestry back to Trinidad. Evans's artworks are extraordinarily vivid with unique patterns, but she refused to explain them, stating, "They are just as strange to me as they are to anybody else.”



Minnie Evans, Design Made at Airlie Gardens, 1967, oil and mixed media on canvas mounted on paperboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist, 1972.44. Photo from the Smithsonian American Art Museum.




Hale Woodruff (1900-1980)


Woodruff was born in Cairo, Illinois and grew up in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1927, he began a four year journey to Paris where he became friends with other notable African American artists, such as Henry Ossawa Tanner, Josephine Baker, and Augusta Savage. Upon returning to America amidst the Great Depression, he taught at Atlanta University. While in the south, he was drawn to American regionalism and was inspired to express Black life in America.




Lois Mailou Jones (1905-1988) 




Charles Henry Alston (1907-1977)




Romare Bearden (1911-1988) 


Perhaps one of the most renowned artists in the Mint's collection is Romare Bearden, a Charlotte-born artist. At three years old, Bearden's family moved to New York in order to escape white supremacy and Jim Crow laws of the South. While he spent much of his life working in New York City during the Harlem Renaissance, Bearden often drew inspiration from his North Carolinian roots. Bearden's legacy lives on in Charlotte, as we can see in a sculpture dedicated to him and the Romare Bearden Park. One of Bearden's most notable artistic practices was his use of collage, which merged the imagery of the past with commentary on present-day life for Black Americans. 




Elizabeth Catlett (1915-2012) 




John Wilson (1922-2015) 




John Biggers (1924-2001) 


John Biggers was an influential muralist from Gastonia, NC. His work commented on injustices in the United States, including racism and economic inequality. After a period in the Navy and travels to West Africa, his style developed into one of social realism. Biggers was one of the first African American artists to address the concept of the African Diaspora. In addition to murals, he also worked on paintings, prints, drawings, and sculptures. 




A.B. Jackson (1925-1981)




Faith Ringgold (1930-)





Leo Twiggs (1934-) 




Nellie Ashford (1943-)




Joyce J. Scott (1948-) 


Scott is a printmaker, performing artist, educator, sculptor, weaver, and most notably, a beadworker. She was born in Baltimore, Maryland and has worked in the area for most of her life. As hardships such as police violence and poverty have surrounded her, she feels it is necessary to show a darker side in her artwork. Take, for example, Rodney King's Head Was Squashed Like a Watermelon (1991), which draws the viewer in via beautiful and intricate beadworking. However, it also succinctly expresses how police brutality is a rampant issue that is often minimized in our society. Through depictions of racism and sexism, Scott hopes her work compels people to change and create a better world.




Michael D. Harris (1948-) 




Wendel White (1956-)





Sana Musasama (1957-) 




Nick Cave (1959-) 




Beverly McIver (1962-)

McIver was born in Greensboro, NC and raised alongside two sisters. Having grown up in poverty amidst racial violence in Greensboro, her self-portraits have become important for confronting stereotypes about Black women and finding self-expression. Family is also an important theme in her work, which we can see clearly in portraits depicting Renee, McIver's sister who is mentally disabled and whom she now cares for. McIver's explorations of race, gender, class, and occupation provide insights into both her personal life and society at large.




Stacy Lynn Waddell (1966-) 


Waddell was born in Washington D.C. and came to North Carolina to complete a BA at the School of Design, North Carolina State University and her MFA at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Waddell uses layers of gold in her artworks to create a glimmering surface that the viewer feels compelled to look at closely and slowly. In addition to gilding, she also uses techniques of branding and singeing to comment upon beauty and power in American history. Waddell splits her time between studios in Durham and New York City.





Sharif Bey (1974-) 




Kehinde Wiley (1977-) 






Marielle Plasir (1978-) 





Antoine Williams (1980-)


Williams grew up in Red Springs, NC and has worked extensively across the state. His art is centered on revealing the complexities of race in the United States, which is inspired by his childhood living in a rural, working-class area. His pieces are mixed media, ranging from murals to performance to collages and more. 


In discussing his work, Williams states, "My practice is an exploration of the notion, society as monstrous, and its effect on Black physical, mental, and emotional states of being. The work created sits at the intersection of radical Black imagining, magical realism and critical race theory. I use a variety of material and processes to weave futures, present, and histories into surrealist speculative economies that investigates the complexities of contemporary Black life in the context of class and power."






Created by RJ Maupin, Library Volunteer