Emma Amos (painter)

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Emma Amos
Born March 16, 1938
Atlanta, Georgia
Nationality American
Known for postmodernist African-American painter and printmaker
Style She combines printmaking, painting and textile in her works, usually on linen and large and unframed.

Emma Amos (born 1938) is a postmodernist African-American painter and printmaker.

Early life[edit]

She was born in America's South on March 16, 1938, in Atlanta and is of African descent.

Amos studied at Antioch College in Ohio, at the London Central School of Art in England, and at New York University.[1]

After NYU, she honed her skills at Robert Blackburn's Printmaking Workshop, and worked as a designer/weaver for textile master, Dorothy Liebes.[2]


While attending NYU, she was asked to join Spiral, a group of African American artists based in New York City. In the 1960s she was the only woman in a group that included founders Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis, Hale Woodruff and Charles Alston.

Amos originated and co-hosted Show of Hands, a crafts show for WGBH-TV in Boston in 1977-79, and later became a Professor at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University.[2]

Amos used her art to explore themes of race and gender, contending that the very act of being black while an artist is political in nature. She cited well-known White, male artists, such as Picasso and Gauguin, who were praised for including subjects of color into their work, while African American artists are seemingly expected to paint other subjects of color. Amos incorporated white subjects into her art, particularly images of the Ku Klux Klan, challenging this assumption.[3][4]


Amos combines printmaking, painting and textile in her self-referential works, usually on linen and large and unframed. She uses acrylic paint, etching, silk screen (collograph, photo transfer effects with iron-on fabric and African textiles, borrowing schema, subject matter and symbols from European art while pictorially quoting artists like Paul Gauguin, Malcolm Morley, Lucian Freud, and Henri Matisse. Amos demonstrates the deconstructive licence of postmodernist works in her use of applications from several disciplines on the same picture plane, making a "seamless work of art".[2]

As well as bordering her paintings with African fabric, Amos sews, appliques, embroiders and occasionally quilts with her own weavings, Kente cloth and batiks. The scale and textural layering of the work according to Patton, resembles "the form of European prestige tapestries and the African diaspora."[2]

Art museum director, Sharon Patton, summarizes her oeuvre thus:

[Amos's] sequence of paintings is anecdotal, but the objective of each is the same: to argue constructively against norms in the field of art as well as society. Her responses are reactive and reflexive; she ably uses her paintings as a means to analyze and assess cultural production, authorship, meaning and consumption. Amos is quintessentially postmodern because she questions the validity of canonical traditions and institutions that for so long have been biased against the inclusion of women and artists of color, especially blacks.[2]


  1. ^ Nell Irvin Painter (2006). Creating Black Americans: African-American history and its meanings, 1619 to the present. Oxford University Press US. p. 418. ISBN 978-0-19-513755-2. Retrieved 2009-06-05. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Emma Amos: Thinking Paint, catalogue notes by Sharon F. Patton, Director of the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio, and author of African American Art, Oxford University Press, 1998
  3. ^ Emma Amos: `Painting white'. By: Weathers, Diane, Essence (Essence), 00140880, Sep94, Vol. 25, Issue 5
  4. ^ Emma Amos: Art as Legacy. By: Lisa E. Farrington, Woman's Art Journal, Vol. 28, No. 1 (Spring - Summer, 2007), pp. 3-11

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