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Faith Ringgold

American Multi-media Artist, Social Activist, Author, and Art Professor

Faith Ringgold Photo
Movements and Styles: Postmodernism, Activist Art

Born: October 8, 1930 - Harlem, New York City, USA

"My process is designed to give us 'colored folk' and women a taste of the American dream straight up. Since the facts don't do that too often, I decided to make it up."

Summary of Faith Ringgold

Faith Ringgold took the traditional craft of quilt making (which has its roots in the slave culture of the south - pre-civil war era) and re-interpreted its function to tell stories of her life and those of others in the black community. One of her most famous story quilts is Tar Beach, which depicts a family gathered on their rooftop on a hot summer night.

As a social activist, she has used art to start and grow such organizations as Where We At that support African American women artists. Her foundation Anyone Can Fly, is devoted to expanding the art canon to include artists of the African diaspora and to introduce the African American masters to children and adult audiences.

Key Ideas

Ringgold's early art and activism are inextricably intertwined. Her art confronted prejudice directly and made political statements, often using the shock value of racial slurs within her works to highlight the ethnic tension, political unrest, and the race riots of the 1960s. Her works provide crucial insight into perceptions of white culture by African Americans and vice versa.
She combines her African heritage and artistic traditions with her artistic training to create paintings, multi-media soft sculptures, and "story quilts" that elevate the sewn arts to the status of fine art.
In her story quilt Tar Beach the term 'Tar Beach' refers to the urban rooftop itself, commonly used as a place on which to escape the oppressive heat of an inner city without air conditioning. The adults visit with each other while the children play and sleep on their blankets. The daughter dreams of flying freely over all barriers, which is represented by the George Washington bridge in the background. Ringgold consciously chooses to lend a folk-art quality to techniques in her story quilts as a means of emphasizing their narrative importance over compositional style.
Her later works deal with prejudice in a different way. No longer using confrontational imagery to attack prejudice, she subverts it, instead by providing young African Americans with positive role models, re-imaging hurtful racial stereotypes as strong, successful, and heroic women.
Faith Ringgold Photo

Faith Ringgold was born Faith Willi Jones and grew up in New York City. The artist has said of her own upbringing, "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."

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