10 Famous Folk Artists Who Carry on the Tradition of Creative Expression

Gee's Bend Quiltmakers

Gee's Bend Quilts Folk Art

Photo: Arthur Rothstein, photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In a tradition that dates back to the mid 19th century, the Quilts of Gee's Bend are made by the women in a remote black community in Alabama. They have produced countless patchwork textiles and attracted the attention of people from around the world. Clad in electrifying geometric patterns—that are often improvised—their work challenges the conventions of quilt-making.

Gee's Bend Quilts Folk Art

By Billvolckening (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Grandma Moses

Folk Art Grandma Moses

Grandma Moses Goes to the Big City

Anna Mary Robertson, aka Grandma Moses, was a farm wife who started her painting seriously at the age of 78. Proving you're never too old to try something new, her “simple realism” celebrates the quiet beauty of rural life. She had a thriving career until she was 101 years old, with her art adorning the likes of greeting cards and other merchandise.

Grandma Moses - Country FairGrandma Moses - Quiet Day


Joseph Yoakum

Joseph Yoakum

At age 76, Joseph Yoakum began recording his memories that took the form of imaginary landscapes. During the last decade of his life, he produced over 2,000 drawings influenced by his life; he said that he was born on a Navajo reservation near Window Rock Arizona and was a storyteller at heart. He claimed to have traveled the world doing a number of odd jobs. Making art was when he really settled down, however, and he produced one or two drawings a day until his death on Christmas morning in 1972.

Joseph Yoakum

Outsider Artist

Mt. Swan of Darling Mountain Range Near Perth of Western Australia, 1968
The Anthony Petullo Collection


Martín Ramírez

Outsider Artist

UNTITLED (Horse and Rider)
Photo: Rick Gardner

Martín Ramírez spent the last 15 years in his life in a California institution for mental illness. During that time, he created nearly 300 large-scale drawings of horseback riders, trains, and more using materials available to him.

Outsider Artist

UNTITLED (Three VW Vans)
Photo: Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York

Outsider Artist

UNTITLED (Horse and Rider)
Photo: Gavin Ashworth


James Castle

James Castle is best known for his handmade books and constructions that he created for nearly 70 years. Born in a small Idaho town, he was profoundly deaf and didn't attend school until he was nearly 10 years old. It's unknown if Castle ever learned sign language (or if he knew how to read), but the written word would often come up in his drawings and handmade books. The images, which depict interiors, buildings, and landscapes, were produced with soot from a woodstove (among other things) and applied to the paper with his own saliva.


Vestie Davis

Outsider Artist

Bethesda Fountain, 1964
Photo: Gavin Ashworth

Like Grandma Moses, Vestie Davis filled his compositions with nostalgic scenes. While Moses focused on the farm, Davis depicted the hustle and bustle of New York from the 1950s to the 1970s, in fear that the city would not stay as he remembered it because of its continual evolution.

Outsider Artist

IRT 3rd Avenue Elevated, 1965
Photo: Gavin Ashworth

Outsider Artist

City Hall, 1975
Photo: John Parnell


Judith Scott

Born in 1943 with Down syndrome and profound deafness, Judith Scott was institutionalized for 35 years of her life. Judith came to art after her twin sister, Joyce, became her legal guardian in 1986 and moved her to the Creative Growth Art Center in California from Ohio. After observing a fiber artist, Judith started “spontaneously” creating layered sculptures that were each completely unique.

Judith Scott Folk Artist

Photo: Dr.John Cooke (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Related Articles:

Mexican Folk Art Sculptures Created by Residents of Oaxaca

Indian Folk Art “Rangoli” Uses Colorful Flour and Rice in Stunning Designs

90-Year-Old Grandma in the Czech Republic Passes Time By Artistically Painting Houses

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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