Here at Root Compass Modern Nomad we are currently obsessing over all things Faith Ringgold. Her story quilts continue a tradition passed down in the Black community for decades. Per her artist bio found on her website below and a few videos where you can learn from the artist in her own words.
Faith Ringgold, born 1930 in Harlem, New York, 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 1960’s 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. In the early 1970’s 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 1970’s and 80’s. Although Faith Ringgold’s art was initially inspired by African art in the 1960’s, it was not until the late 1970’s 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.