Faith Ringgold, Multi-Faceted Artist

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Faith Ringgold, Multi-Faceted Artist

Faith Ringgold is a painter, sculptor, writer, quilter, and performance artist. She was born on October 8, 1930, in Harlem, New York, right in the midst of the Harlem Renaissance, to Andrew Louis Jones and Willi Posey Jones. Her mother was a fashion designer, and her father loved to tell stories. The home environment they created encouraged their children’s creativity. Because of asthma, Faith spent much of her childhood quietly at home, drawing, coloring, and sewing.

Her neighborhood was full of creative Black people. Duke Ellington and Langston Hughes lived around the corner. Sonny Rollins was one of her childhood friends.

She enrolled in City College of New York, planning to major in art, but in 1950, that was not an approved course of study for women; so she majored in art education instead. After graduation, she taught art in New York City public schools, painting on her own. Later, she served as a professor of art at the University of California in San Diego. Her paintings echoed the Civil Rights movement, and also the feminist movement, and coincided with her social activism. She was influenced by African art, particularly in her use of color.

Faith Ringgold; story quilt; quilt
Tar Beach 2 (1990), story quilt by Faith Ringgold. Photo by Brooklyn Museum; used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License; cropped.

After viewing an exhibit at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, she was inspired to create “story quilts” that combined painting and quilting in the African-American tradition. Her first story quilt was a collaboration with her mother.

The same trip also launched her foray into sculpture. She made masks, often extending them with bodies. Her sculptures are mostly soft sculptures, doll-like.

Photo of Faith Ringgold, taken in April, 2017 by Brooklyn Museum; used under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Ringgold has authored and/or illustrated 17 children’s books. Her books have earned her prestigious awards, such as the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award and the Coretta Scott King award for illustration. She was also a runner-up for the Caldecott Medal.

To learn more about Faith Ringgold’s life and to view high resolution images of her art, check out her website.

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