THREE OF THE MOST creative and relevant artists working today will be honored by the American Folk Art Museum (AFAM). The museum is paying tribute to Faith Ringgold, Bisa Butler, and Brian Donnelly (a.k.a. KAWS) at its 60th Anniversary Benefit Gala at Gotham Hall in New York on April 7.

AFAM describes itself as the leading institution “shaping the understanding and appreciation of folk and self-taught art across time and place.” The gala benefits the museum’s exhibitions, educational programming, and internships.


From left, Faith Ringgold. | © 2022 Faith Ringgold, Courtesy ACA Galleries, New York; Bisa Butler. | Photo by Gioncarlo Valentine


“At 60 years, we are proud to celebrate our anniversary by honoring three of the most creative artists of our time,” said Jason T. Busch, AFAM’s director and CEO. “Innovative, iconic, and inspiring, each has made a distinct impact in the United States and abroad.”

The honorees span three generations. Ringgold and Butler are known for their innovative work with textiles. Both artists live in New Jersey and have worked as teachers to support their practices.

Butler, who translates photographs into collaged portraits made with a spectrum of fabrics, was recently named a 2022 Gordon Parks Fellow in Art. She usually works with vintage images to make her contemporary portraits. The works are about representation and storytelling, exploring American life through the lens of the African American experience.

“Innovative, iconic, and inspiring, each [artist] has made a distinct impact in the United States and abroad.” — Director and CEO Jason T. Busch

A pioneering artist and activist, Ringgold is among the artists who have influenced Butler. Practicing for more than six decades, Ringgold tackles race and gender issues, American democracy, and has also explored her own biography. Over the years, she has expressed herself in a variety of mediums, from paintings and prints to dolls, and mixed-media fabric works.

Ringgold began making tankas in the 1970s, made her first painted quilt in 1980 (“Echoes of Harlem”), and delved into story quilts featuring written narratives in 1983 (“Who’s Afraid of Aunt Jemima?”). “Faith Ringgold: American People,” a career-spanning survey of the artist opens at the New Museum in New York on Feb. 17.

Donnelly (above right), the New York-based artist and designer, is a member of AFAM’s board of trustees. “Martha and Mary” (circa 1931-37) by William Edmonson, long-believed to be missing and recently rediscovered, is now a promised gift to the museum from Donnelly. The sculpture is among the highlights featured in “Multitudes,” AFAM’s 60th anniversary exhibition, showcasing about 400 works from its collection.

“The American Folk Art Museum has been a place of safe refuge for outsider artists and folk artists for years,” Butler said. “It is a place where we can see Americana crafts in a museum setting and know that the art is respected.” CT


IMAGE: Above right, Brian Donnelly (KAWS). | Photo by Nils Mueller


FIND MORE about Faith Ringgold on her website and Bisa Butler on Instagram


READ MORE about the “discovery” of “Martha and Mary” in the front yard of a home in St. Louis, Mo.

READ MORE about artist Brian Donnelly (KAWS) in The New York Times


“Bisa Butler: Portraits” documents Bisa Butler’s first solo museum exhibition. Butler’s work is also featured in the exhibition catalog “Fabric of a Nation: American Quilt Stories.” Serpentine Galleries published a catalog to accompany “Faith Ringgold.” Glenstone, where the exhibition made its U.S. debut in Potomac, Md., produced an expanded version of the catalog. Faith Ringgold’s early activism is documented in Susan E. Cahan’s book, “Mounting Frustration: The Art Museum in the Age of Black Power.” Also consider “Dancing at the Louvre: Faith Ringgold’s French Collection and Other Story Quilts,” which documents an exhibition of the same name and was the first publication devoted to her quilt works. “Faith Ringgold: Die” provides the backstory for Ringgold’s fascinating “American People #20: Die” (1967) painting, which was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in 2016. A number of publications explore the work of KAWS, including “KAWS: What Party,” recently published by Phaidon.


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