Fortunately the beautiful artist, author, professor, and activist Faith Ringgold has written her own biography. I wanted to share the joyousness of Ms. Ringgold's art and books which celebrate the African American experience. She also elevated quilting to an art form - which it always really was, but her efforts I think brought it to the forefront. As a children's librarian I immediately embraced the works of Faith Ringgold knowing that they would appeal to both children and adults alike. There is something so positive about her work. Let me share some of it here. But first I want to quote the opening line of Biography.com -
"Faith Ringgold is an American artist and author who became famous for innovative, quilted narrations like Tar Beach that communicate her political beliefs."
"Faith Ringgold, painter, writer, speaker, mixed media sculptor and performance artist lives and works in Englewood, New Jersey. Ms Ringgold is professor emeritus at the University of California, San Diego where she taught art from 1987 until 2002. Professor Ringgold is the recipient of more than 75 awards including 22 Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts Degrees. She has received fellowships and grants that include the National Endowment For the Arts Award for sculpture (1978) and for painting (1989); The La Napoule Foundation Award for painting in France (1990); The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship for painting (1987); The New York Foundation For the Arts Award for painting (1988); The American Association of University Women for travel to Africa (1976); The Creative Artists Public Service Award for painting (1971)."
Illustration 2: The French Collection Part I, #4, The Sunflower Quilting Bee at Arles, 1991, acrylic on canvas, tie-dyed, pieced fabric border, 74" x 80", WC/Q70, private collection. Image shown on this web page with the kind permission of Faith Ringgold.
In this colorful painted quilt image, a group of African-American women proudly display their sunflower quilt, in a field of sunflowers, with Van Gogh standing quietly in the background, holding a vase of his beloved sunflowers. The buildings of the village of Arles are shown in the background, painted with the bright yellows and blues that Van Gogh loved to use in his paintings.
"Ringgold’s art has been exhibited in museums and galleries in the USA, Canada, Europe, Asia, South America, the Middle East, and Africa. Her art is included in many private and public art collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The National Museum of American Art, The Museum of Modern Art, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Boston Museum of Fine Art, The Chase Manhattan Bank Collection, The Baltimore Museum, Williams College Museum of Art, The High Museum of Fine Art, The Newark Museum, The Phillip Morris Collection, The St. Louis Art Museum and The Spencer Museum. Ms. Ringgold is represented by ACA Gallery in New York City. Ringgold’s public commissions include; People Portraits, 52 mosaics installed in the Los Angeles, California, Civic center subway station (2010); Flying Home: Harlem Heroes and Heroines, two 25 foot mosaic murals installed in the 125th street Subway station in New York City in 1996; The Crown Heights Children's Story Quilt featuring folklore from the 12 major cultures that settled Crown Heights is installed in the library at PS 90 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn and Eugenio Maria de Hostos: A Man and His Dream, (1994) A mural celebrating the life of Eugenio Maria de Hostos for De Hostos Community College in the Bronx is installed in the atrium of the college."
"Ringgold's first published book, the award winning, Tar Beach, "a book for children of all ages", was published by Random House in 1991 and has won more than 30 awards including, a Caldecott Honor and the Coretta Scott King award for the best illustrated children's book of 1991. The book, Tar Beach, is based on the story quilt Tar Beach, from Ringgold's The Woman On A Bridge Series of 1988 and is in the permanent collection of the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. HBO included an animated version of Tar Beach in "Good Night Moon and Other Sleepy Time Lullabies." This program runs periodically on HBO and has been released as a DVD. Ringgold has completed sixteen children's books including the above mentioned Tar Beach, Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad In The Sky, My Dream of Martin Luther King and Talking to Faith Ringgold, (an autobiographical interactive art book for children of all ages), The Invisible Princess, an original African American Fairy Tale based on the quilt Born in a Cotton Field all published by Random House. If a Bus Could Talk; The Story of Ms. Rosa Parks won the NAACP's Image Award 2000 and is available from Simon and Schuster. O Holy Night and The Three Witches, and Bronzeville Boys and Girls are from Harper Collins. Faith Ringgold's latest children's book is Henry O. Tanner: His Boyhood Dream Comes True published by Bunker Hill Publishing. We Flew Over the Bridge: The Memoirs of Faith Ringgold, Ringgold's first adult book was published by Little, Brown in 1995 and has been re-released by Duke University Press."
Faith Ringgold was also an activist who fought hard to get women's art into museums. She was born October 8, 1930 (age 85), Harlem, New York City, NY. I hope you can catch some of her art - here in Los Angeles she has art on exhibit at our metro station - 52 mosaics installed in the Los Angeles, California, Civic center subway station (2010).
From Wikipedia: "Faith Ringgold was born the youngest of three children on October 8, 1930 in Harlem Hospital, New York City.:24 Her parents, Andrew Louis Jones and Willie Posey Jones, descended from working class families displaced by the Great Migration.:24 Because her mother was a fashion designer and father an avid storyteller, Ringgold was exposed to creativity from an early age. After the Harlem Renaissance, Ringgold’s childhood home in Harlem was left with a vibrant and thriving arts scene. Figures like Duke Ellington and Langston Hughes lived just around the corner from her home.:27 Her childhood friend, Sonny Rollins, who would later become a prominent jazz musician, often visited her family and practiced his saxophone at their parties.:28 Because of her chronic asthma, Ringold explored visual art as a major pastime through the support of her mother, often experimenting with crayons as a young girl.:24 In a statement she later made about her youth, she said, “I grew up in Harlem during the Great Depression. This did not mean I was poor and oppressed. We were protected from oppression and surrounded by a loving family.”.:24 With all of these influences combined, Ringgold’s future artwork was greatly affected by the people, poetry, and music she experienced in her childhood, as well as the racism, sexism, and segregation she dealt with in her everyday life.:9"
"Ringgold has been an activist since the 1970s, participating in several feminist and anti-racist organizations. In 1968, fellow artist Poppy Johnson, and art critic Lucy Lippard, founded the Ad Hoc Women's Art Committee with Ringgold and protested a major modernist art exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Members of the committee demanded that women artists account for fifty percent of the exhibitors and created disturbances at the museum by singing, blowing whistles, chanting about their exclusion, and leaving raw eggs and sanitary napkins on the ground. Not only were women artists excluded from this show, but no African American artists were represented either. Even Jacob Lawrence, an artist in the museum’s permanent collection, was excluded.:41 After participating in more protest activity, Ringgold was arrested on November 13, 1970.:41
"Ringgold and Lippard also worked together during their participation in the group Women Artists in Revolution (WAR). That same year, Ringgold and her daughter Michele Wallace founded Women Students and Artists for Black Art Liberation (WSABAL). Around 1974, Ringgold and Wallace were founding members of the National Black Feminist Organization. Ringgold was also a founding member of the "Where We At" Black Women Artists, a New York-based women's art collective associated with the Black Arts Movement. The inaugural show of "Where We At" featured soul food rather than traditional cocktails, exhibiting an embrace of cultural roots. The show was first presented in 1971 with eight artists and had expanded to twenty by 1976.
In a statement about black representation in the arts, she said:
“When I was in elementary school I used to see reproductions of Horace Pippin’s 1942 painting called John Brown Going to His Hanging in my textbooks. I didn’t know Pippin was a black person. No one ever told me that. I was much, much older before I found out that there was at least one black artist in my history books. Only one. Now that didn’t help me. That wasn’t good enough for me. How come I didn’t have that source of power? It is important. That’s why I am a black artist. It is exactly why I say who I am.” :62
Faith Ringgold's Artist Statement
"I became an artist in the tumultuous 1960s. However love with being an artist. By the early 1970s I had developed both vision and voice as a black woman artist in America.
"I went to West Africa in the 1970s and returned home inspired to write my memoir. We Flew Over the Bridge: The Memoirs of Faith Ringgold was published in 1995 it took me fifteen years to get it published. During that time I wrote and painted story quilts and began to create masked performances to tell my story. I had been working in collaboration with my mother, Mme Willi Posey a dressmaker and fashion designer. We made our first quilt in 1980.
"News of the great jazz saxophonist, Sonny Rollins, a childhood friend, blowing his horn on the Manhattan bridge so that he would not disturb his neighbors, inspired the painted story quilt, Tar Beach. That story of Cassie Louise Lightfoot flying over the George Washington Bridge became my first children’s book. I have published 14 children’s books to date. 1990 found me in France painting the French Collection and writing the story of Willia Marie Simone, a self styled African American woman artist who went to Paris to be an artist in 1920 during the Harlem Renaissance. The American Collection came next and the story quilts and children’s books continued to document my artistic production.
In 1992 my husband, Birdie, and I moved from Harlem to Jones Road in Englewood, New Jersey to build a studio. However, our white neighbors (unsuccessfully) sought to deny us the freedom to live there. Freedom, you know, is not free--It took me six years to realize my dream of a beautiful studio surrounded by a beautiful garden. Inspiring images of my ancestors on the Underground Railroad now appeared in my new landscape paintings of Coming to Jones Road Under a Blood Red Sky. Icons of black men and women making the music the whole world loves, the music we brought to America along with the pain of slavery was now a new inspiration. “Mama Can Sing” and “Papa Can Blow” are the ever reassuring realities of black life I depend on during difficult times.
"Recent work includes Our Ancestors: stories about the worlds children who faced with life in a world at war have forgotten how to play. We call upon our ancestors who would surely bring love and happiness into their lives? Where would we have been without them?
"It is 2007 and I have just completed a series of 8 serigraphs for publication of Martin Luther King’s Letter From Birmingham City Jail, in which he masterfully details our struggle for freedom for which he paid with his life. The 1960s, the majestic words of freedom and peaceful solutions to The Struggle in America are all quite unimaginable without the presence of Martin Luther King Jr. A tribute I feel honored to create."
Official website - http://www.faithringgold.com
Guggenheim collection online - http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/collections/collection-online/artists/bios/791/Faith%20Ringgold
Biography.com - http://www.biography.com/people/faith-ringgold-9459066
Artist and Activist - http://www.makers.com/faith-ringgold
Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faith_Ringgold
Chronology - http://www.faithringgold.com/ringgold/chron_rev.pdf
Faith Ringgold bloodspot - http://faithringgold.blogspot.com/2007/03/faith-ringgold.html
Blogspot on L.A. Metro station 52 mosaics - http://faithringgold.blogspot.com/2012/02/images-quilt-editions.html