story quilts

Check out these female artists, now in their 70s, 80s, and 90s that we should have known about a looong time ago. Behold their artistic works. 

Starting from the top row, going left to right

Carmen Herrera: The 99 year old is known for her abstract geometric style 

Agnes Denes: At 83 years, Denes is known for her works which integrate philosophy, math, science, and map projections. 

Dorothea Rockburne: After getting her start in mathematics, Rockburne discovered a unique expression on geometric abstraction. 

Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian: Iranian artist mixes Persian geometric with Abstract Expressionism

Lorraine O’Grady: The rock critic turned artist 

Etel Adnan: The artist with small, but powerful abstract works

Joan Semmel: An artist of figuration, beautifully capturing human nudity 

Rosalyn Drexler: Known for her brightly colored, cartoon/film-noir paintings

Judith Bernstein: Best known for her in-you-face approach to gender politics

Faith Ringgold: An artist of “story quilts”

Michelle Stuart: A earth artist who creates land-art based work


This uplifting, Emmy-winning PBS film tells the modern-day “Cinderalla” story of the quilt-makers of Gee’s Bend, Alabama. Artists born into extreme poverty, they live to see their quilts hailed by a The New York Times art critic as “some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced." 


Harlem-born artist Faith Ringgold is famous for her “story quilts” that explore themes of race and gender, particularly in the art history world. One work about Matisse finds the artist commenting on his use of black models and the link to male desire. Many of the narratives center on a fictional heroine named Willa Marie Simone who goes to Paris to become an artist. The Picnic at Giverny (1991) reverses Willa’s submissive role and shows the figure boldly painting in Monet’s Giverny garden, while a nude Picasso poses along the sidelines. 

Who’s Afraid of Aunt Jemima? Faith Ringgold. 1983.

“Many people will already have seen Ms. Ringgold’s work, a hybrid of European art and the powerful visual poetry of African traditions…
“Who’s Afraid of Aunt Jemima,” while visually beautiful, is filled with moments of wry or bitter comedy, for it deals essentially with racist assumptions about African-Americans in our society. This is a recurring theme in the work of the artist, who is African-American, along with references to women’s issues and concerns…anger and disillusionment can be seen in Ms. Ringgold’s works, but also hope, happiness, love and pride in her ancestry.” – Master of Story Quilts and Much More, Benjamin Genocchio, 2009

Faith Ringgold (born October 8, 1930, in Harlem, New York City) is an African-American artist, best known for her painted story quilts.
During the 1960s, Ringgold painted flat, figural compositions that focused on the racial conflicts; depicting everything from riots to cocktail parties,which resulted in her “American People” series, showing the female view of the Civil Rights Movement.The 1970s mark her move into the sculptural figures that depicted fictional slave stories as well as contemporary ones. Ringgold began quilted artworks in 1980; her first quilt being “Echoes of Harlem."She quilted her stories in order to be heard, since at the time no one would publish her autobiography."Who’s Afraid of Aunt Jemima?” (1983) is a quilt showing the story of Aunt Jemima as a matriarch restaurateur.Ringgold modeled her “story quilts” on the Buddhist Thangkas, lovely pictures painted on fabric and quilted or brocaded, which could then be easily rolled up and transported. She has influenced numerous modern artists, including Linda Freeman, and known some of the greatest African-American artists personally, including Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, and Betye Saar.