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Faith Ringgold, 1930-2024

Anyone can fly. All you need is somewhere to go that you cant get to any other way. The next thing you know, you’re flying among the stars.

– Faith Ringgold, “Tar Beach” (1991)

Born Faith Willi Jones on October 8, 1930, in Harlem, Faith Ringgold was a pioneering painter, mixed media sculptor, performance artist, author, teacher and activist whose powerful works address issues of race, gender, and social justice. Ringgold’s innovative use of quilting and storytelling techniques revolutionized the art world by bridging the gap between fine art and craft traditions.

During the early 1960’s Ringgold traveled to 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 1967 and 1970. Following a second trip to Europe in the early 1970’s Ringgold began making tankas (Tibetan paintings framed in richly brocaded fabrics), soft sculptures, and masks. She used this medium in her masked performances of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Although Ringgold’s art was initially inspired by African art, it was not until the 1970’s that she traveled to Nigeria and Ghana to see the rich tradition of masks that have continued to be one of her greatest influences.

Ringgold made her first quilt, Echoes of Harlem, in 1980, in collaboration with her mother, Madame Willi Posey who was a prominent Harlem fashion designer. Ringgold’s quilts were an extension of her tankas from the 1970’s. These paintings were not only bordered with fabric but quilted as well – a unique fusion of painting and quilting mediums. 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 had developed into a unique medium and style all her own. Over the next forty years Ringgold continued to innovate and reinvent her style, creating new original series of paintings and storyquilts at least once every decade.

Ringgold’s first children’s book, the award-winning Tar Beach, was published in 1991 by Crown. It has won more than 20 awards, including the Caldecott Honor and the Coretta Scott King Award for the best-illustrated children’s book of the year. An animated version with Natalie Cole providing the voice-over was produced by HBO in 1999. The book is based on the story quilt of the same title from the 1988 Woman on a Bridge series. That original painted story quilt, Tar Beach, is in the permanent collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

Ringgold was the recipient of over 100 awards and honors; author of 20 children’s books; and subject of the recent critically acclaimed touring exhibition “Faith Ringgold: American People” (2022–2024). Faith Ringgold has been exclusively represented by ACA Galleries since 1995.