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Faith Ringgold Who Portrayed The African American Experience Dies Aged 93

Faith Ringgold, courtesy ACA Galleries NY © All rights reserved.

Faith Ringgold, a pioneering multimedia artist renowned for her vibrant pictorial quilts capturing the essence of the African American experience, passed away on Saturday at her Englewood, New Jersey residence. She was 93 years old. Her daughter, Barbara Wallace, confirmed her death.

Throughout a career spanning over five decades, Ringgold delved into themes of race, gender, class, family, and community through various artistic mediums, including painting, sculpture, textiles, and performance art. A staunch advocate for the representation of Black and female artists in major American museums, Ringgold’s work resonated globally and found a permanent place in prestigious collections such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Museum.

Ringgold’s art, often from her personal experiences, served as a vehicle for creative expression and social activism. Her distinctive style, characterised by integrating craft materials like fabric, beads, and thread with traditional fine-art materials, with vibrant colours and a keen focus on the lives of ordinary Black individuals, garnered critical acclaim.

Despite facing challenges related to her race and gender, Ringgold remained unchangeable in her commitment to art as a catalyst for social change. As New York Times art critic Roberta Smith noted in 2013, Ringgold spent over five decades navigating the complexities of message and form, art and craft, and the pervasive themes of racial and sexual inequality.

Ringgold’s most celebrated works include her “story quilts,” large panels of unstretched canvas painted with vivid acrylics and framed by traditional borders of pieced fabric, which narrate the joys and struggles of Black lives. Her renowned quilt “Tar Beach,” completed in 1988, inspired her first children’s book of the same title, which received widespread acclaim and accolades, including the Caldecott Honor Book and the Coretta Scott King Award.

Born Faith Willi Jones on October 8, 1930, in Harlem, Ringgold’s artistic journey was deeply influenced by her upbringing in a creative and storytelling family. Despite facing personal tragedies, including the loss of her brother to racial violence, Ringgold pursued her passion for art and education. After earning degrees from the City College of New York, she embarked on a career as an educator while honing her skills as a painter.

Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, Ringgold’s art evolved in response to the political and social climate of the time, becoming increasingly political and feminist in nature. She actively participated in protests and movements advocating for the rights of Black and female artists, challenging the status quo of the art establishment.

Ringgold’s legacy extends beyond her artistic contributions; she was also a prolific writer and illustrator of children’s books, shedding light on important historical figures and events within the African American community.

In addition to her artistic endeavours, Ringgold was a dedicated educator and activist. In 1999, she founded the Anyone Can Fly Foundation to promote the work of artists of the African diaspora.

Faith Ringgold leaves a legacy, inspiring generations of artists and activists with her commitment to social justice and creative expression. As she once remarked, “If I woke up white in America, I wouldn’t be an artist.”

Faith Ringgold has been represented worldwide exclusively by ACA Galleries since 1995.

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