Faith Ringgold

Faith Ringgold

Faith Ringgold: An African-American Female Artist Telling Her Story Through More than Sixty Years of Creation

Artist, writer, educator and social actor... Faith Ringgold is one of the most influential cultural figures of her generation. “Faith Ringgold: The American People” opened at the New Museum in New York, the most comprehensive exhibition to date documenting the seminal artist.

The exhibition system presents the 92-year-old African-American female avant-garde artist's prolific career, from his early creations in response to the civil rights movement to the multidisciplinary practice of the Harlem Renaissance, spanning more than six decades. Drawing inspiration from her personal autobiography and collective histories, Ringgold documents her life experiences as an artist and mother, and rebels for social justice and fairness.

Faith Ringgold, American People Series #19: American Stamps Commemorating the Emergence of Black Power, 1967


Although Faith Ringgold's artistic practice is often seen as politically charged, she herself wrote in her 1995 memoir, "I've always wanted to tell my story, and I can only be myself." Faith Ringgold's parents were descendants of working-class families displaced by the Great Migration in the depressed and turbulent environment of the 1960s America. Her mother was a fashion designer, and her father, in addition to his various jobs, was passionate about for storytelling. She was surrounded by a loving family and did not grow up in poverty and oppression.

However, the African-American culture and homeland plot never dissipated in her life and creation. In the 1930s, there was a "Harlem Renaissance" in the United States. African Americans centered on the Harlem district of Manhattan in New York City had a cultural renaissance in music, dance, art, fashion, literature, drama, etc. At the time it was called the "New Negro Movement". At the time represented an overt racial pride that was embodied in the notion of neo-Blacks, who challenged prevailing racism and stereotypes through the creation of literature, art and music to promote social integration and Break racism.

After this, Faith Ringgold's childhood home was surrounded by a thriving arts scene, and due to her chronic asthma, Faith Ringgold explored the visual arts with the support of her mother, and also learned how to sew and The creative use of fabrics has profoundly influenced her later series of widely known story quilts.

Faith Ringgold, Early Works Series #15: They Speak No Evil 1962

memory and identity

In her early paintings, we can see that she consciously used African cultural elements to strengthen her self-identity through the depiction of African-American groups. Faith Ringgold, one of the few African-American female artists to receive a college education, entered secondary school teaching after earning a master's degree in 1959. Ringgold painted her first political series in 1963, titled "The American People Series," depicting the American way of life in relation to the civil rights movement. The American People series illustrates these racial interactions from a female perspective and questions fundamental racial issues in America.

Faith Ringgold, The American People Series #20: Death, 1967

Faith Ringgold once explained in an essay that her choice for the political series stemmed from the turbulent atmosphere around her: "It was the 1960s, and I couldn't do everything well. I couldn't paint landscapes in the 1960s— There's so much going on there. That's what inspired the American People series." Inspired by black civil rights ideas, her African-American identity gave her a unique creative inspiration. In 1967, Ringgold wrote "Death" for this series. The work draws on Picasso's "Guernica", which depicts exaggerated character movements and cruel scenes. Black and white men hold weapons as if they are fighting each other, and the splashes of blood seem to be sprayed out of the picture. Women and children are fleeing. It is worth noting that at the bottom of the picture, a pair of children are hugging each other, and there are no racial boundaries. The artist used a strong image and a sharp perspective to depict the racial conflicts at that time. Violence and panic also involved the innocent and the weak. This work is also a true portrayal of the black civil rights movement at that time.

The unique historical memory of African-Americans is not only about racial confrontation in Ringgold's writings, Faith Ringgold also shows the positive side of black life in his works, depicting the lively scene on the street, holding parties and gatherings in the suburbs Upload the scenes of singing and dancing, etc. These fragmented memories are sewn together and maintained by emotions, and the repressed trauma is transformed into memories shared and shared by the group.

In the 1970s, she began to create a series of story quilts (story quilts), she used the traditional African patchwork form combined with Western culture, using brightly colored, hand-stitched fabrics as canvases, creating works with the most simple hand labor. This style not only retains decoration, but also combines complicated patterns to give the picture a unique story. In "Weaving a Sunflower Quilt in Arles", women sit around a sunflower field with a large patchwork with sunflower patterns in front of them, and they gather together to chat and weave.

There are absolutely no stereotypes and high gazes in the picture, and women have autonomous existence without being attached to others. During the American slavery period, women sewed and spliced remnants of fabric and collected old clothes into complete fabrics for tablecloths, curtains, sheets, etc. In Faith Ringgold's paintings, the connotation of patchwork artwork changes from a symbol of early hardship and poverty to a relaxed nostalgia.

Faith Ringgold, Weaving Sunflower Quilts in Arles, 1991

In fact, Faith Ringgold's attention to African-American women is very prominent. After the 1970s, female images became the protagonists of his works. They were no longer low-status laborers, but integrated into modern society, with self-awareness and Women with a strong sense of self-identity. Ringgold also produced a collection of costume masks and soft sculptures, masks using grass-coloured, beaded and woven pieces of linen canvas for hair, and rectangular pieces for dresses with painted gourds to represent breasts. Female physical features such as breasts, abdomen and buttocks are highlighted. In her memoir, Ringgold noted that in traditional African rituals, the person wearing the mask would be male, despite its feminine characteristics. She wanted the mask to have a "spiritual and sculptural identity" at the same time, and a dual purpose was important to her: the mask could be worn, not just decorative.

Faith Ringgold, Who's Afraid of Aunt Jemima?, 1983

Social activist

In her more than 60 years of artistic practice, Faith Ringgold not only focuses on artistic creation, but also participates in several feminist and anti-racism organizations. In 1968, fellow artist Bobby Johnson and art critic Lucy Lippard joined Ringgold to form an ad hoc women's art committee to protest a large-scale modernist art at the Whitney Museum of American Art exhibition. Committee members demanded that female artists make up 50 percent of exhibitors and created riots at the museum by singing, whistling, chanting to be excluded, leaving raw eggs and sanitary pads.

Faith Ringgold, Sugar, 1978

Faith Ringgold is also a founding member of Where We Are Black Women Artists, a New York women's art group associated with the black art movement. The "Where We Are" premiere featured soul food rather than traditional cocktails, showing an embrace of cultural roots. First shown in 1971 with eight artists, the exhibition had expanded to 20 by 1976.

In 1972, Doloris Holmes, who interviewed her exclusively for the Archives of American Art, asked her about an upcoming exhibition she "would be participating in," Ringgold elaborated. "...this is definitely the first black women's show in New York...We have this show as a result of our perseverance and as a result of WSABAL starting to work."


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