Faith Ringgold: Artist Portrait

Faith Ringgold

Born 1930.
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Faith Ringgold Biography

A civil rights and gender equality activist, Faith Ringgold infuses her diverse artistic
practice with politically charged explorations of black female identity. Most famous for
her narrative quilts, Ringgold’s oeuvre also encompasses painting, sculpture,
performance art, mixed media and children’s literature. Her artwork, synthesizing
Ringgold’s western training with African artistic traditions, subverts prejudicial narratives
to recast black women as courageous, empowering figures.

Born in 1930 in New York City’s Harlem, Ringgold grew up amidst figures of the Harlem
Renaissance and displayed artistic talent from an early age. Rejected from the male-
only fine arts program, Ringgold studied art education at City College of New York,
obtaining a Master’s degree in 1959. A passionate supporter of the American Civil
Rights Movement, Ringgold began producing overtly political paintings with the the
American People Series (1963–67). In the 1970s, influenced by her travels in Europe
and West Africa, Ringgold expanded her artistic practice to include sculpture, mask
making and performance art. She also began painting on unstretched canvas with fabric
borders, a technique inspired by Tibetan thangkas.

In 1983, unable to find a publisher for her autobiography, Ringgold turned to quilting—a
medium steeped in African American tradition and ripe with narrative possibility—as a
way of telling her story. She went on to produce some of her best known works,
including Who’s Afraid of Aunt Jemima (1983), a heroic reinterpretation of “the most
maligned black female stereotype,” and 1988’s Tar Beach, which went on to inspire the
beloved children’s book of the same name (1991). In 1995, Ringgold published her
autobiography, We Flew Over the Bridge.

Today, Ringgold lives and works in Englewood, New Jersey. She is the recipient of
numerous honors including the National Endowment for the Arts Award; Guggenheim
Memorial Fellowship Award; NAACP Image Award; Caldecott Honor; and a Peace
Corps Award bestowed by President Barack Obama. Her artwork resides in the
permanent collections of numerous museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art,
Museum of Modern Art, Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum of
American Art and Brooklyn Museum in New York, among others.

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