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Faith Ringgold  

Civil Rights Activist, Women's Right Activist, Author, Educator & Painter

Faith Ringgold is a painter, mixed media sculptor, performance artist, writer, teacher and lecturer. She received her B.S. and M.A. degrees in visual art from the City College of New York in 1955 and 1959. Professor Emeritus of Art at the University of California in San Diego, Ringgold has received 23 Honorary Doctorates.

During the early 1960s Ringgold traveled in Europe. She created her first political paintings, The American People Series from 1963 to 1967 and had her first and second one-person exhibitions at the Spectrum Gallery in New York. It portrays the American lifestyle in relation to the Civil Rights movement and illustrates these racial interactions from a woman’s point of view. This collection asks the question “why?” about some basic racial issues in American society.

In the early 1970s Ringgold began making tankas (inspired by a Tibetan art form of paintings framed in richly brocaded fabrics), soft sculptures and masks. She later utilized this medium in her masked performances of the 1970s and 80s. Although Faith Ringgold’s art was initially inspired by African art in the 1960s, it was not until the late 1970s that she traveled to Nigeria and Ghana to see the rich tradition of masks that have continued to be her greatest influence.

She made her first quilt, Echoes of Harlem, in 1980, in collaboration with her mother, Madame Willi Posey. The quilts were an extension of her tankas from the 1970’s. However, these paintings were not only bordered with fabric but quilted, creating for her a unique way of painting using the quilt medium.

Ringgold’s first story quilt Who’s Afraid of Aunt Jemima? was written in 1983 as a way of publishing her unedited words. The addition of text to her quilts has developed into a unique medium and style all her own.

Crown Publishers published Faith Ringgold’s first book, the award winning Tar Beach in 1991. It has won over 20 awards including the Caldecott Honor and the Coretta Scott King award for the best-illustrated children’s book of 1991. An animated version with Natalie Cole as the voice over was created by HBO in 2010. The book is based on the story quilt of the same title from The Woman on a Bridge Series, 1988. The original painted story quilt, Tar Beach, is in the permanent collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

Her second children’s book Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky was published in 1992. In 1993 Hyperion Books published Dinner at Aunt Connie’s, Ringgold’s third book based on The Dinner Quilt, 1986. Her first book for an adult audience was her autobiography, We Flew Over the Bridge: The Memoirs of Faith Ringgold. To date she has illustrated 17 children’s books.

Ringgold has been an activist since the 1970s, participating in several feminist and anti-racist organizations.


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