Black Female Artists Part I: Faith Ringgold
As a young child waltzing through museums I never noted having seen works of art depicted by black artist let alone black female artists. Unless it was an exhibition on Africa in which case the works of art were presented more as an insight into African lifestyle and crafts for making a living rather than expressional aesthetic works.
Ebonics Press is pulling back the curtains on the creative and artistic works of exemplary black female artists and spread the love, joy and depth of black art. To head this ten piece series we will begin with a female artist who has battled against artistic discrimination and in entering a predominantly white orientated world of art, stayed true to her colours.
“Being an artist is an opportunity for me to have something to say about the world and to be able to communicate that something to other people and hopefully to have that communication live past my life” - Faith Ringgold
Proudly, Ringgold’s works are in the permanent collections of the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and also have an internationally reach in other museums around the world.
I was attracted to Ringgold’s art work due to a sense of comfort and warm recognition which flooded me when first viewing images from her collections. One can be lost in Ringgold’s works as though gazing into the sky on a cool summers days with reflections passing through your mind. Ringgold’s works are full of life, meaning, hope and compassion.
Aside from the bold colours, originality, imagination and subtle hints, Ringgold’s paintings can particularly be recognized for the fabric borders sewn around the edges. The skill of sewing was passed down through the generations of her family, dating back to when her great great great grandmother who was a slave would sew quilts for her white masters. Hence, it is important to note that in the African American slave community quilts were not just for warmth but to depict stories, preserve history and memories and as message boards to the Underground Railroad. However, despite the inhuman connection Ringgold has transformed this skill into something which is beautiful and lightly presents a somewhat dark point in black history.
Ringgold uses art to reflect on topics of slavery, race and gender in the world and seeks to challenge false assumptions of gender and race with artistic expression and gentle humour. This can be seen in her address of community unity of different cultures seen through her projects on the Oklahoma City Bombing, the twelve different ethnic heritages of the residence of Crown Heights and aid for Haiti. Click to see a video of RInggold in the community.
Ringgold is an artist who has the significance of her work rooted deeper than creating a pretty picture. As a strong activist for women she visited the Women’s House of Detention on Riker’s Island, for the enlightenment and enhancement of the lives of women of colour in prison, where Ringgold would question the women on what would give them hope and help them to dream of their future. Her actions were captured in an interview “For the Women’s House” first published in Women and Art a 70’s underground feminist publication.
As a perfect example to us all neither does Ringgold forget the future generation. She has lent her assistance to school and projects for children and has been author to a number of children’s stories lending her artistic talents to beautiful illustrations to accompany children’s tales. To name a few of the children’s books published by Ringgold as an author: “Tar Beach”, “Dinner at Aunt Connie’s House” and “Cassie’s Colorful Day”.
For us Ringgold works speak aloud “it’s OK to be black, it’s OK to female, it’s an honour to be you”, with satire and beauty.
To sum it up with Ringgold’s own Motto – “If One Can Anyone Can All You Gotta Do Is Try”.
Here are two of our favourite pieces from this artist, let us know what impression or feelings they bring out in you!
To learn more about Faith Ringgold you can visit the following sites: