elizabeth_catlett.jpgMEXICO CITY (AP) — Sculptor and printmaker Elizabeth Catlett, a U.S. expatriate renowned for her dignified portrayals of African-American and Mexican women and who was barred from her home country for political activism during the McCarthy era, has died. She was 96.

Maria Antonieta Alva-rez, Catlett's daughter-in-law, said the artist died April 2 in the house in Cuernavaca, Mexico, where she had lived for the past 30 years.

Born in Washington D.C., Catlett moved to Mexico in 1946, became friends with the great Mexican muralist Diego Rivera and others in his circle and married Mexican artist Francisco Mora.

She became known for her commitment to winning greater rights for blacks, women and workers in the United States and her adopted country. Catlett witnessed almost every important artistic and social movement of the 20th century and traveled in some of the same illustrious circles as the great American artist Jacob Lawrence and poet Langston Hughes.

She was arrested during a railroad workers' protest in Mexico City in 1958 and in 1962 the U.S. State Department banned her from returning to the United States for nearly a decade.

Working in wood, stone and other natural materials, she produced simple, flowing sculptures of women, children and laborers, and prints of Mexicans and black Americans that she used to promote social justice.

Catlett was raised by her mother, a teacher, because her father, who was also a teacher, had died before her birth. She said she knew from age 6 that she wanted to be an artist.