The World Catches Up With Dindga McCannon

Jillian Steinhauer, The New York Times, September 10, 2021

PHILADELPHIA — The moment you walk through Dindga McCannon’s purple front door, you enter her artistic world. There’s patterned fabric everywhere: covering the windows and furniture, hanging in the form of quilts, clothing and batiks. Her paintings occupy the walls too, and boxes of prints are stashed under the TV. Any free space seems to be a potential spot for art.


For more than five decades, McCannon has been making work rooted in who she is: an African American woman and third-generation Harlemite (although she lives in Philadelphia now). She has a longstanding reputation in Black and fiber art communities: in an interview, Michelle Bishop, the founder and director of the nonprofit Harlem Needle Arts called her “already famous.” But, as is the case with so many Black female artists, the white mainstream ignored her dazzling, hard-to-categorize assemblage quilts as well as her bright, figurative paintings and prints — until now. “I just kept making what was right for me,” said McCannon, who is both happy about and unfazed by her late-in-life success. “Eventually, the world catches up with you.”


This month, the artist, who recently turned 74, had a solo show open at Fridman Gallery that includes some 24 pieces and is accompanied by a catalog. This is the first time she has been represented by a commercial gallery, and the catalog is the first publication devoted to her art. (The gallery will also show her work at the Armory Show this week and at Art Basel Miami Beach in December.) For the occasions, she’s painting a mural in Beacon, N.Y., with her son, who is also an artist. Her first mural in at least a decade, it’s titled “Maybe if the mothers of the world unite we could all live in peace” and depicts five women of different races and ethnicities in an arc behind a sun. Thematically and visually, it harks back to “A United Community,” a six-story mural she designed in Bushwick, Brooklyn.