Faith Ringgold

(b. 1930)

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(1934– ).

Painter, printmaker, mixed-media sculptor, and performance artist. Colorful, imaginative, and witty, her art focuses on subjects related to civil rights, feminism, or her relationship as an artist to history. Her singular narrative “story quilts” make innovative use of fabrics in combination with painting. Born in New York, Faith Jones grew up in Harlem. In 1950 she married classical and jazz pianist Robert Earl Wallace, but they later separated and were divorced in 1956. Following her graduation in 1955 from City College of New York, where Robert Gwathmey and Yasuo Kuniyoshi numbered among her teachers, she taught art in New York public schools for nearly twenty years. In 1959 she completed a master's degree at City University of New York, and in 1962 she married Burdette Ringgold. Until 1963 she worked primarily as a landscape painter. Inspired by the burgeoning civil rights campaign, she subsequently addressed political themes in a bold, posterlike style. As the women's movement gained strength in the early 1970s, she found the primary theme of her mature work, the struggles and joys of African-American women. Recruiting her mother, Willi Posey Jones—an accomplished seamstress—as a collaborator, Ringgold began producing soft sculptures and paintings on cloth, including some abstract works based on African designs. She often used these as props for lectures and performances. In 1983 she initiated her extended series of inimitable story quilts featuring painted pictorial elements, usually combined with border texts. A sequence of twelve, collectively titled The French Collection (1991–97), offers a whimsical rumination on race, gender, and cultural history through the story of a black American teenager who escapes to work in Paris during the 1920s as an artist and model. In 1984 Ringgold started teaching half of each year at the University of California at San Diego, while otherwise remaining in the New York area. Currently an emerita professor at UCSD, she makes her home in Englewood, New Jersey. Her memoir We Flew over the Bridge appeared in 1995. Since 1991 she has also published several illustrated children's books. Ringgold's daughter, critic and theorist Michele Wallace (1952– ), a New York University PhD, often considers the visual arts within writings centered on gender and race.

Subjects: Art.

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