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Emma Amos (1937–2020), artist whose work explored racism and sexism

by Linnea Crowther

Emma Amos was a painter whose brightly colored works shone a light on racism and sexism in America.

Fighting for justice through her art

The statements Amos made in her art grew from her experience as a woman of color in the art world. She found herself excluded from the mainstream art world for her race and from African American artists’ circles for her gender. Amos responded with multimedia artworks incorporating African textiles alongside paint, etching, and photo transfer, creating paintings of women falling from the sky and flying through space. Other elements of the paintings illustrated the ways women are sexualized and African American lives are devalued in our society. She was a member of artists’ collectives including Guerrilla Girls, the Spiral, and Heresies. Amos had been exhibiting her artwork for more than 50 years but only recently received more mainstream attention with exhibitions in spaces including London’s Tate Modern and the Brooklyn Museum.

Amos on color in art

“Every time I think about color it’s a political statement. [As artists] we’re always talking about color, but colors are also skin colors, and the term ‘colored’ itself—it all means something else to me. You have to choose, as a black artist, what color to make your figures. . . butterscotch, brown or really black.” —quoted in Smithsonian Magazine

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What people said about her

Full obituary: The New York Times

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