Pickens Museum Opens New Exhibition of Seriagraphs by Faith Ringgold
To celebrate Black History Month and to honor the memory of Dr. S. J. Pickens, Pickens Museum opened a new exhibition on February 16, 2020 in the atrium of City Central at 400 E Central in Ponca City titled "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" which includes eight serigraphs by Faith Ringgold that depict major events in the Civil Rights Movement including “Freedom Summer” in Mississippi in 1964. The exhibition will be on display during February, 2020. There is no admission charge. "This is a opportunity for citizens of Ponca City to view art that are superlative accompaniments to Dr. King's stirring text," says Hugh Pickens, Executive Director of Pickens Museum. "The subjects and scenes that fill Ringgold's compositions are inspired by the American experience. The themes are universal: inequality and the struggle for its eradication that should inspire us all."
The public viewed the prints for the first time in 2008 at a reception honoring Ringgold at the New York Public Library's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Ringgold's art has been exhibited in major museums around the world and is in the permanent collections of the Guggenheim Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Museum of American Art, Museum of Modern Art, and Boston Museum of Fine Art
The exhibition honors the memory of Ponca City resident Dr. S. J. Pickens who traveled to Alabama with freedom riders in 1963 to help register black residents to vote and to integrate lunch counters. Dr. Pickens marched with King and attended Dr. King's March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. She said that she never thought she would live to see a black President but forty-five years after the March on Washington Dr. Pickens traveled to Washington DC with her husband to attend Barack Obama's inauguration on the National Mall in Washington DC.
Artist Faith Ringgold was born in Harlem in 1930. Her family included educators and creatives, and she grew up surrounded by the Harlem Renaissance. The street where she was raised was also home to influential activists, writers, and artists of the era-Thurgood Marshall, W.E.B. Dubois, and Aaron Douglas, to name a few. "It's nice to come up in a period where great changes are being made," she once said. "And that was my period: the '30s to the '60s, when radical changes were being made."
Ringgold received her art education at City College, down the street from her childhood home. "I got a fabulous education in art-wonderful teachers who taught me everything except anything about African art or African American art. But I traveled and took care of that part myself," she's said. After graduating, she began her career painting landscapes and still-lifes in the style of modern European masters. But her practice quickly pivoted to focus on her own experience and the political and social tensions that surrounded her, namely the struggle for equality among women and the black community.
Throughout her career, Ringgold's work has been driven by the challenges and fulfillments of her life and the lives of those around her. "First of all, you should never make something, as an artist or even as a writer, that is outside of your experience," she once said. "People will use what is available to them. I am black and I am a woman. There it is."
In 1963, as the fight for racial justice animated the Civil Rights movement, Ringgold began her seminal "American People Series." According to Alexxa Gotthardt, it was the artist's first body of work to manifest her mature style-one that fused the forms and techniques of folk art with content inspired by the most vocal social critics of her time, such as the writers James Baldwin and Amiri Baraka. In an early painting from the series, The American People Series #1: Between Friends (1963), two women, one black and one white, stand close but seem to stare through each other. A red divider cuts through the center of the composition, bifurcating the two women and emphasizing their distinct experiences and, perhaps, their inability to understand one another.
The '60s also gave birth to Ringgold's role as an activist. In 1968, she organized a demonstration protesting the omission of black artists in a Whitney Museum show highlighting American sculptors of the '30s. Two years later, she was on the front lines of another demonstration at the Whitney-this time protesting the woeful dearth of female artists across the museum's exhibition program. The demonstrators brandished police whistles, feminine products, and eggs: "I boiled mine, painted them black, and wrote 50 percent on them [to indicate the percentage of women who should be included in shows]," Ringgold said. "It felt like we were doing something and were a part of the movement in America to equalize things."
“Ringgold passionately combines a deep commitment to social activism with a style that draws from folk art and modernist painting,” says Gotthardt. “Across her body of work, paintings and sculptures lay bare the discrimination that plagues our world and double as rallying cries for urgent change.” "You can't sit around waiting for somebody else to say who you are. You need to write it and paint it and do it," Ringgold once said. "That's the power of being an artist."
The serigraphs were a gift to Dr. Pickens from her husband on her birthday in June 2018 that Dr. Pickens treasured. One of the most striking features of the display of the serigraphs is the way they are matted and framed. “Dr. Pickens chose the mattings and the colors for the mattings before she died in October of the same year,” says Hugh Pickens. “She had an amazing color sense and sense of proportion. The mattings and framing of the pieces is stunning.”
Before she went to Alabama in 1963, where she was assaulted for desegregating lunch counters, her father told her never to flinch when she was struck by segregationists and to turn the other cheek when she was beaten. Before she left for the South, her father made her commit to memory the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley which was her favorite poem and sums up her life.
<html>Invictus by William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how straight the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.</html>
The exhibition will be on display at Pickens Museum thorugh February.
The Storyteller: At 85, Her Star Still Rising, Faith Ringgold Looks Back on Her Life in Art, Activism, and Education
March 1, 2016 9:35am
In 1963, Faith Ringgold was 32, the mother of two daughters, and on the hunt for a gallery to show her work. To say that it was difficult for black artists to find gallery representation at that time would be a gross understatement. Nevertheless, as Ringgold tells it in her memoirs, We Flew over the Bridge (1995), she was unrelenting in her search, and one day she had a meeting with Ruth White, who ran a gallery in Manhattan on 57th Street.
The artist’s second husband, Burdette Ringgold (everyone calls him Birdie), went along too, carrying her paintings, as he always did. “We never showed [galleries] books or slides,” Ringgold told me one morning in her studio at her home in Englewood, New Jersey. “We used to bring in the actual art because I didn’t want to hear anything about, ‘Yeah, but I can’t see it. I don’t know what you do.’ ”
Ringgold showed White her paintings—still lifes and landscapes in what she called “French” colors, which were very much in line with the gallery’s focus. The dealer studied the work, the artist told me, then said to her, “You”—pause—“can’t”—pause—“do that.”
“What is she talking about? I was taught that!” Ringgold remembered thinking. “She says I can’t do that. I can do anything I want! Hmmm. Hmmm. That’s interesting!”
Driving back to Harlem, she and Birdie talked about what had happened. “I said to him,” Ringgold continued, “ ‘You know something? I think what she’s saying is—it’s the 1960s, all hell is breaking loose all over, and you’re painting flowers and leaves. You can’t do that. Your job is to tell your story. Your story has to come out of your life, your environment, who you are, where you come from.’ ”
The encounter was transformative. Over the next few years, Ringgold would produce some of the most searing depictions ever made of race relations in America, beginning with her “American People” series of paintings, which presents interracial tensions with unflinching clarity. In The American People Series #2: Between Friends (1963), a white woman and a black woman eye each other, close up but from a vast psychological distance. In The American People Series #1: Members Only (1963), six menacing, white faces, cloaked in shadows, stare down the viewer.
“[I realized] I can’t tell your story, I can only tell mine. I can’t be you, I can only be me,” Ringgold told me. She stopped for a moment. “OK. I don’t know that’s exactly what she meant,” she said of White. “But as far as I was concerned, it was. And I started painting.”
The street that Ringgold lives on in Englewood is lined with large bushes and trees, which makes it hard to spot address numbers. But driving slowly down her block of nondescript suburban houses, it was immediately obvious which was hers—the one with a mosaic on the facade, depicting a young girl soaring across a brilliant blue sky. The image is of Cassie Louise Lightfoot, the eight-year-old star of Ringgold’s story quilt Tar Beach (1988), adapted in 1991 into an award-winning children’s book. (Ringgold went on to write and illustrate 16 more books for children.)
Ringgold met me at the door warmly, wearing a black jacket over a tie-dye-style top, all purples and blues, and a thin black bonnet embroidered with flowers. She is 85 but still hearty (her great-great-grandmother lived to be 110), bustling up the stairs to an airy studio she had built atop her house.
Scattered around the studio were folders bulging with materials documenting Ringgold’s nearly 70-year career of art and activism. These were being collected in preparation for the Faith Ringgold Study Room that the University of Maryland’s David C. Driskell Center, which focuses on African American artists and artists from the African diaspora, is planning. “One of the roles that the Driskell Center should play is being a means by which artists are honored,” its director, Curlee Raven Holton, told me. “They’re not always honored in the way that they should be. Faith was on the top of that list.”
While Ringgold’s narrative quilts, which she began making in the 1980s, have garnered her popular acclaim, the extent of her achievements remains too little known. “What I am interested in doing is showing the development of my work from the beginning,” Ringgold said. She showed me into her office, where high up on the wall, next to photographs of relatives and ancestors, was a dark still life, recalling later Braque. She made the work in 1948, as an 18-year-old student at City College’s School of Education.
Faith Ringgold, The American People Series #19: U.S. Postage Stamp Commemorating the Advent of Black Power, 1967. ©FAITH RINGGOLD Faith Ringgold, The American People Series #19: U.S. Postage Stamp Commemorating the Advent of Black Power, 1967. ©FAITH RINGGOLD/COURTESY ACA GALLERIES, NYC
Ringgold’s original plan had been to study art. But when she showed up at City College’s School of Liberal Arts, she was informed that it did not admit women. “They’re sitting there trying to make me understand that I cannot get a liberal arts degree there,” she said, “and I am refusing to understand. And out of it, one woman says”—Ringgold dropped her voice to a whisper—“ ‘She can do it. Let me tell you how. She can [enroll in the School of Education] and major in art.’ ”
Ringgold’s mother, a fashion designer, was relieved by the teaching degree. The artist’s grandfather on her mother’s side had been a teacher in the South, and there was a strong emphasis on education on both sides of the family.
And it provided a solid, though incomplete, foundation for Ringgold. “I got a fabulous education in art—wonderful teachers who taught me everything except anything about African art or African American art,” she said, starting to laugh, “but I traveled and took care of that part myself.”
After graduating, Ringgold earned a master’s degree in art, taught in New York public schools, and raised her children, Michele and Barbara, having split with her first husband, Robert Earl Wallace, a musician who would later die of a heroin overdose. She began spending more time with Birdie, a close friend of the family. In 1962 they married.
Ringgold was honing her art all the while, and meeting fellow artists. After being rebuffed by White, she wrote to Romare Bearden, hoping to join his freshly formed Spiral group. While Bearden did not invite her to be a member of the collective, he did write back that he enjoyed her slides, adding, “Don’t despair, just continue to work hard.” She did. Spotting the red-green-and-black Marcus Garvey flag outside a building one day, she headed inside; there she met Amiri Baraka (then LeRoi Jones) and landed a spot in a show that his Black Arts Repertory Theatre was staging in public spaces throughout Harlem in the summer of 1966.
That same year, Spectrum, a co-op gallery in Midtown Manhattan, run by Robert Newman, invited Ringgold to join its roster. A solo show was put on the calendar for late 1967, but a problem quickly arose. “Everybody in the gallery was doing these large, huge things. It was that time,” she told me. “I was living in an apartment where I was limited as to how big the work [could be].” And so Newman gave her the keys to the gallery for the summer so she could use it as a painting studio, and her mother took her daughters. “I wasn’t going to be able to pay attention to them,” she said, “and you can’t have kids you don’t pay attention to. OK, so they went off to Europe, I stayed home. I actually left my husband”—she was laughing now—“because I had to be free to do the paintings.”
That summer she produced a group of astounding pieces, including The American People Series #20: Die, showing a brutal race riot as a tangle of naked black and white bodies spilling blood; The American People Series #19: U.S. Postage Stamp Commemorating the Advent of Black Power, consisting of a grid of faces with one diagonal formed by black faces and the other by the phrase BLACK POWER; and The American People Series #18: The Flag Is Bleeding, in which bloody stars and stripes overlay an image of three people—a white man, a white woman, and a black man with a knife—standing arm in arm.
In 2010, the Neuberger Museum of Art, at Purchase College in New York, mounted an exhibition of Ringgold’s paintings from the 1960s. The show was met with rapturous reviews, and a handful of major institutions have added work from that period to their collections, including the Harvard Art Museums, which in 2014 acquired Black Light #8: Red White Black Nigger (1969), a painting that riffs on Jasper Johns’s 1959 Out the Window. In it, Ringgold eschews Johns’s brushy marks for a crisp design, replacing the words RED, YELLOW, and BLUE with RED, WHITE, and BLACK. Floating behind each word is another, larger one: NIGGER.
“To my mind and eye, [those pieces] inform everything else she did, and you really cannot fundamentally understand the rest of her body of work without seeing it in the context of that first work,” said Tracy Fitzpatrick, who helped curate the 2010 show and now directs the Neuberger. Among Fitzpatrick’s duties for the exhibition was to arrange the loan of For the Woman’s House (1971), a mural that Ringgold made of women working as basketball players, police officers, bus drivers, and other male-dominated roles. The ideas for the subjects came from prisoners at the Women’s House of Detention on Rikers Island in New York City, where the mural was installed.
The 1960s were a time of protests, and Ringgold was often front and center. When the Whitney Museum organized a show about 1930s American sculpture in 1968 that included not a single black artist, she mobilized demonstrations. “Faith was the one who just took the bit in her teeth and ran with it,” the critic Lucy Lippard said in a phone interview. The first time Ringgold was called a nigger, she has said, was during one of those protests, by a man taking his daughter to the museum.
Though Ringgold sold a few paintings from her first two solo shows, she often talks about that period as one in which she had nothing to lose. She was still an outsider in both the art world and its protest movement—one of a small number of women of color involved.
In 1970, Ringgold joined with Lippard and others to protest the male-artist-dominated Whitney Biennial as part of a group called the Ad Hoc Women Artists’ Committee. They left eggs and women’s products in the museum with the words “50% women” written on them. (Ringgold’s daughter Michele was an active participant in the protests. She would later become a pioneering culture critic.)
“I remember Faith’s idea was to have these whistles,” Lippard said. “She gave us whistles. When you got in the stairwell, [you would] blow the hell out of the whistles. They would come running to see what it was, and all you had to do was slip it in your pocket and wander off.” The actions, she said, continued for a few months. Those who ran the museum were “pissed,” she told me, “but there wasn’t a whole lot they could do.”
The authorities were less forgiving that same year when, to protest the arrest of gallerist Stephen Radich for showing works by Marc Morrel incorporating the American flag, Ringgold helped put together a show of art featuring flags at the Judson Memorial Church in the West Village. “How dare you tell artists what they can do?” Ringgold said. “That’s the beginning of some really bad funk—bad, bad, bad.” On the penultimate day of the exhibition, plainclothes officers showed up and arrested two of the curators, Jon Hendricks and Jean Toche, along with Ringgold’s daughter Michele, giving up the latter only when Ringgold explained that, no, it was she who should be arrested. Eventually they had to pay fines.
Around this time, Ringgold also made posters for the Black Panthers and the imprisoned Angela Davis—crisp, punchy prints with slogans like “All Power to the People” and “Free Angela”—but that did not quite work out as planned. “They didn’t like them,” she said. “I couldn’t get them to appreciate anything.” The Panthers wanted a poster that read, “Kill whitey,” Ringgold told me. “Political people don’t seem to understand art,” she said. “It’s not what they’re trying to do. And if it is, let them do that. Don’t tell me what to do, because I have to look at this many years from now and be happy that I did it, not unhappy. And I would be unhappy with the ‘Kill whitey.’ It’s not my thing.”
Nineteen seventy-two brought another major shift in Ringgold’s work. During a visit to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, she began talking to a guard who had lived in Harlem. He pointed her in the direction of the museum’s Tibetan thangkas, paintings on thin cloth framed with silk brocade. Ringgold was enchanted with the medium and returned to the States determined to experiment with it. With sewing help from her mother, she began what she termed the “Slave Rape” series, brutal images painted on fabric and surrounded, thangka-like, by pieced cloth borders. “It’s a fabulous way to work because what happens is I can roll [the painting] up—I don’t care how big it is—and take it myself,” she told me.
In the 1970s, Ringgold also made remarkable masks and soft sculptures (the first was of Wilt Chamberlain, “because Wilt was like a sculpture—7 foot 3, my God!”) and began doing performances, like The Wake and Resurrection of the Bicentennial Negro (1976), in which a pair of children are mourned by family members and people in the audience. Ringgold designed costumes for the family to wear. “I thought that up because [African Americans were saying], ‘We’re not going to celebrate that [U.S.] bicentennial because we weren’t free.’ I said, ‘I’ll tell you what, we won’t celebrate, but let’s have a wake and resurrection.’ ”
“Oh, it was a very interesting time,” Ringgold said of those years. “People were really very dedicated to each other, to their freedom and support of one another. And I felt that I had something to say, and I wanted to say it.”
And then, in 1980, came the story quilts, narrative paintings on canvas surrounded by patchwork cloth borders and turned into quilts, picking up a craft Ringgold’s great-great-great-grandmother had worked in as a slave for her masters. Her mother assisted early on. The quilts’ subjects range from Michael Jackson’s “Bad” video to Ringgold’s weight loss to Pablo Picasso. They found buyers. “We sold out all of her shows, without question,” said the now-retired dealer Bernice Steinbaum, who began representing Ringgold in the mid-1980s in New York, after visiting her 1984 retrospective at the Studio Museum in Harlem. “I went up, saw it, and fell passionately in love,” she said.
But Ringgold’s quilts have never quite been taken seriously by most major museums, perhaps because of their craft associations, whimsical range of subjects, or faux naive painting style. Neither the Museum of Modern Art nor the Whitney Museum owns one—though the latter has a 1971 collage calling for the release of Angela Davis. The Guggenheim has owned her masterpiece Tar Beach since the year it was made, 1988, but has never put it on view in New York.
That said, last fall the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, snapped up one at auction for a cool $461,000, a new record for Ringgold for a public sale by a multiple of 30. It dates to 1989 and was commissioned by Oprah Winfrey as a gift to Maya Angelou for Angelou’s 61st birthday. “One of the things that is extraordinary about [Ringgold’s] quilts in general, but this one in particular, is that it has these layers that intersect with each other,” said Margaret C. Conrads, the museum’s director of curatorial affairs. “There’s painting, quilt making, text—there’s high art, craft, figuration, abstraction, the visual aspects, narrative storytelling.”
Near the end of our day together, Ringgold started going through flat files, pulling out posters she made in the 1970s. One is a map of the United States in red and green—another Johns reference. It is titled United States of Attica, after the prison uprising there in 1971. In black text, all over the map, are written instances of bloodshed—riots, massacres, battles—from throughout American history. She could not fit everything she wanted to include. “I saw—you can’t do that, because it’s becoming more and more violent,” she said. And so, on the bottom of the poster is a simple directive in black block letters: “This map of American violence is incomplete / Please write in whatever you find lacking.”
Andrew Russeth is co-executive editor at ARTnews.
Glenstone is Hosting a Major Faith Ringgold Exhibition This Spring, Maryland Museum is Only U.S. Venue For the Expansive Survey
by VICTORIA L. VALENTINE on Mar 19, 2021 • 6:58 pm3 Comments
THE HOLDINGS OF GLENSTONE MUSEUM in Potomac, Md., include some of Faith Ringgold‘s most politically potent, flag-inspired works. The paintings speak to America’s violent history of racism and injustice.
“The American Collection #6: The Flag is Bleeding #2” (1997) is a self portrait of the artist keeping a close, protective hold on her two young daughters. In the quilt painting, Ringgold’s image is incorporated into an American flag with blood dripping from the stripes.
Look closely and you can read the words “Die” and Nigger” embedded in the stars and stripes on another flag painting, a modern, graphic interpretation titled “Black Light Series #10: Flag for the Moon: Die Nigger” (1969).
FAITH RINGGOLD, “The American Collection #6: The Flag is Bleeding #2,” 1997 (acrylic on canvas with painted and pieced border, 76 x 79 inches). | © 2020 Faith Ringgold / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy ACA Galleries, New York. Courtesy: Glenstone Museum
The paintings are among more than 70 works by Ringgold that will be on view at the museum this spring. The exhibition opens April 8. Glenstone is the only U.S. venue for “Faith Ringgold,” a survey exhibition organized by Serpentine Galleries in London. The presentation was the artist’s first exhibition in a European institution. After debuting at Serpentine in 2019, the show traveled to Bildmuseet in Umeå, Sweden.
An augmented version of the monographic show will feature nine Ringgold works from the Glenstone collection (four exclusively on view in Maryland), 30 works on loan from other public and private collections appearing for the first time on the tour, and the publication of an expanded edition of the exhibition catalog.
“Faith Ringgold’s powerful depictions of the African American experience are as arresting today as they were when she first started making art nearly 60 years ago,” Emily Wei Rales, director and co-founder of Glenstone, said in a statement.
“Faith Ringgold’s powerful depictions of the African American experience are as arresting today as they were when she first started making art nearly 60 years ago.” — Glenstone Co-Founder Emily Wei Rales
Rales, who is curating the Glenstone exhibition, continued: “Her art has had a strong presence at the museum ever since we displayed one of her iconic paintings in our inaugural installation at the Pavilions in 2018, so it only seemed fitting for Faith Ringgold to be the first touring exhibition hosted at Glenstone. We are thrilled to collaborate with the Serpentine and the Bildmuseet in touring this major retrospective around the world, and in bringing it to American audiences.”
Located just outside Washington, D.C., Glenstone is a private museum founded by Emily and Mitch Rales. The museum provides a unique experience, blending art, architecture, and nature—nearly 300 acres of landscape featuring paths, trails, streams, forests, and meadows. The museum opened to the public in 2006 and introduced an expansive new gallery space called the Pavilions in 2018. The inaugural installation at the Pavilions featured highlights from the museum’s collection, including Ringgold’s “Black Light Series #10: Flag for the Moon: Die Nigger.”
Dating from 1963 to 1997, the following works from Glenstone’s collection will be on view in “Faith Ringgold” (asterisks indicate the works being shown for the first time in the touring exhibition):
“American People #4: The Civil Rights Triangle” (1963) *
“Black Light #10: Flag for the Moon” (1969) *
“Black Light #12: Party Time” (1969) *
“Slave Rape #1: Fear Will Make You Weak” (1972)
“Slave Rape #2: Run You Might Get Away” (1972)
“Slave Rape #3: Fight to Save Your Life” (1972)
“Who’s Afraid of Aunt Jemima?” (1983)
“Change 3: Faith Ringgold’s Over 100 Pound Weight Loss Performance Story Quilt” (1991)
“The American Collection #6: The Flag is Bleeding #2” (1997)
BORN AND RAISED IN HARLEM, Ringgold lives and works in Englewood, N.J. Since the 1960s, she has been expressing herself in a variety of mediums—from paintings and political posters to story quilts and Tibetan tankas. Personal and universal, her works offer sharp commentary and intriguing narratives about art history and the experiences of women and Black people in America.
Rarely seen, the works on loan for the Glenstone presentation further explore her practice. Glenstone Curatorial Associate Fanna Gebreyesus previewed the checklist for Culture Type. Selections include a sculptural installation, a series of abstract works, and some of Ringgold’s most iconic story quilts.
FAITH RINGGOLD, “Who’s Afraid of Aunt Jemima?,” 1983 (acrylic on canvas, 90 x 80 inches). | © 2020 Faith Ringgold / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Courtesy ACA Galleries, New York. Courtesy: Glenstone Museum
In 1976, civic and cultural celebrations marking America’s historic bicentennial were widespread. In response, Ringgold produced a critical rebuke—“The Wake and Resurrection of the Bicentennial Negro” (1976), an installation of soft sculpture centered around a couple lying in repose atop a red, black, and green carpet.
Ringgold’s “California Dah” (1983) series features color-rich abstract works framed in raffia fringe. The series pays tribute to her mother, Willi Posey Jones. A fashion designer, Jones was a major presence in Ringgold’s life.
“I wanted to see what it looks like where she was,” Ringgold told Cultured magazine, about the concept for the work. “What is that like? Where is she and what is she seeing? I came up with these shapes. The colors and the shapes. What colors do you see? What shapes do you see?”
The mother and daughter frequently collaborated and Jones taught the artist how to quilt. When her mother died in 1981, Ringgold started incorporating quilts into her practice and, in 1983, she began writing stories directly on the works. The following year she began teaching at the University of California, San Diego (1984-2002), where she is a professor emeritus.
Ordinarily installed prominently in Ringgold’s home, nine works from the “Dah” series will be displayed together for the first time at Glenstone.
Some of Ringgold’s most storied quilts will also be on view. “We have included two works from the iconic French Collections series (“The French Collection #11: Le Cafe Des Artistes,” 1998, and “The French Collection #5: Matisse’s Model,” 1991), a series of story quilts which reimagines European modernity within the context of Black visibility ,” Gebreyesus said. “And we added two works from the ‘Change’ and ‘Tar Beach’ series, offering visitors the opportunity to compare narrative and stylistic similarities within each body of work.”
Originally scheduled to debut at Glenstone last year, “Faith Ringgold” was postponed due to COVID-19. Now back on track, the museum plans to announce the exhibition’s spring opening date soon. CT
“Faith Ringgold” opens April 8, 2021, at Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Md.
UPDATE (03/23/21): Glenstone announced a phased reopening of the museum’s indoor spaces beginning next month, including the debut of the “Faith Ringgold” exhibition on April 8, 2021.
FAITH RINGGOLD, “Change 3: Faith Ringgold’s Over 100 Pound Weight Loss Performance Story Quilt,” 1991 (acrylic on canvas with pieced fabric border, 75 x 85.5 inches). | © 2020 Faith Ringgold / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Courtesy ACA Galleries, New York. Courtesy: Glenstone Museum
BOOKSHELF Serpentine Galleries published a catalog to accompany “Faith Ringgold.” Glenstone is producing an expanded version of the catalog this spring. “Faith Ringgold: Die” provides the backstory for Faith Ringgold’s fascinating “American People #20: Die” (1967) painting, which was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in 2016. “American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Paintings of the 1960s” coincided with her traveling exhibition. “Dancing at the Louvre: Faith Ringgold’s French Collection and Other Story Quilts” documented an exhibition of the same name and was the first publication devoted to her quilt works. Ringgold’s early activism is documented in Susan E. Cahan’s book, “Mounting Frustration: The Art Museum in the Age of Black Power.” Her work is also featured in two catalogs for a sweeping exhibition documenting the experiences of Black women artists (We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85: “Sourcebook” and “New Perspectives”), and the wide variety of ways African American artists expressed themselves in the 1960s and 70s (“Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power”). Ringgold has also authored and illustrated numerous children’s book, including “Tar Beach,” “Harlem Renaissance Party,” and “We Came to America.”
At Age 90, Artist Faith Ringgold Is Still Speaking Her Mind
The provocative pioneer known for quilts chronicling scenes of Black history, hope and protest, is the focus of a sweeping show coming to the Glenstone museum in Maryland
By Kelly Crow
March 31, 2021 11:00 am ET
For 15 years, Glenstone, a private contemporary art museum in Maryland, has showed solely the collection of its founders, Mitchell Rales and Emily Wei Rales. Now, the museum is ready to make an exception.
On April 8, Glenstone will open “Faith Ringgold,” a survey of more than 70 works by the artist known for her story quilts—patchwork tableaus like 1988’s “Tar Beach,” which chronicle scenes of Black history, hope and protest. The exhibit marks the only U.S. stop for a show that drew raves when it launched two years ago at London’s Serpentine Gallery and later traveled to Bildmuseet in Sweden.
Ms. Rales said she and her husband, who have begun collecting Ms. Ringgold’s works, were “blown away” by the scope of the Serpentine exhibit and felt compelled to bring it to the Washington area. “Nobody used to pay much attention to her work, and now she’s finally getting her due,” Ms. Rales said of the artist, who is 90 years old. “We couldn’t pass up our chance to get it.”
The Glenstone version is bigger than earlier iterations, with galleries devoted to Ms. Ringgold’s soft, sculptural works and installations—as well as a series of colorful, abstract paintings never before exhibited. For those unfamiliar with this once-overlooked artist, “Faith Ringgold” offers a poignant reminder of how difficult it was for a Black woman to join the New York art scene in the early 1960s.
Born in Harlem in 1930, Ms. Ringgold grew up in a rich cultural stew, with Duke Ellington as her neighbor and jazz musician Sonny Rollins as a childhood pal. The daughter of a car company executive and a fashion designer, she embraced art early on, using an easel and paints from her parents. Yet in 1948 when she applied to study art at City College, she was told only men could earn the degree and that her only workaround option was to major in art education. She did so, and spent years teaching art in New York public high schools while rearing two daughters and developing her own artistic practice.
“I couldn’t imagine my life without art, so it was persistence all the way,” said Ms. Ringgold, who lives and works in New Jersey.
Her first break came in 1967 when Spectrum Gallery in New York gave her a solo show. Many works in her “American People” series in that debut have become iconic, such as “American People Series #20: Die,” a Guernica-like mural depicting splayed and spattered bodies swept up in a race riot. The same work caused a stir in 2019 when the Museum of Modern Art reopened its expanded galleries and hung it near Pablo Picasso’s 1907 “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.”
Ms. Rales said given the mural’s popularity, she didn’t ask MoMA’s curators to lend it. Instead, the Glenstone show brims with other, early works in which Ms. Ringgold critiques the power dynamics that informed the country’s race relations, midcentury. From boardrooms filled with imperious-looking white men to a group portrait reflecting that some founders of the NAACP were white, Ms. Ringgold pierced accepted narratives to reveal more complicated truths, Ms. Rales said. “Faith likes to problematize everything,” she said.
Nothing from her Spectrum show sold immediately. Ms. Ringgold said she didn’t care at the time, noting that she just wanted someone “to put me on a wall and let me speak.” The scale and political bite of her canvases grew, with works such as “The Flag is Bleeding,” a 1967 line of Black and white people standing with interlocked arms, a group she superimposes with a U.S. flag that appears to be dripping blood.
In one part of the show, Ms. Ringgold aimed to nod to a church wake by hanging textile pieces that evoke stained-glass windows behind black-fabric sculptures that look like mourners. PHOTO: ACA GALLERIES, NY/GLENSTONE MUSEUM
The Glenstone show also explores Ms. Ringgold’s “Black Light” series, exuberant works that explore how she painted Black faces using many tones and hues—a series inspired by the tonal varieties she saw in minimalist Ad Reinhardt’s black-on-black paintings. In some ways, her portrayal of happy Black couples doing everyday things was just as radical as Reinhardt’s black voids, but she said collectors largely stayed away from the works and she eventually moved on to other projects. She returned to the U.S. flag motif in the 1970s, making protest posters for the Black Panthers and incorporating African Kuba textile patterns into her designs.
By the 1980s, Ms. Ringgold found her signature style when she began working with textiles, enlisting her mother’s sewing skills to frame her paintings with quilted borders over which she painted and scrawled narratives. Some were fantasies of a life free of inequality. Others offered glimpses into her personal view of the world, like “Tar Beach,” a sweet story of a young girl who finds city life less stifling atop her apartment building’s roof. (She later illustrated the same story in a children’s book and a short animated film.)
Over the years, Ms. Ringgold created more than 130 quilts, documenting everything from her weight-loss woes to an invented back story for Aunt Jemima, the longtime pancake and breakfast brand that was retired last year and renamed Pearl Milling Co. in February. Glenstone owns the quilt “Who’s Afraid of Aunt Jemima?” and Ms. Rales said she is curious to see how visitors react to it.
The Guggenheim, the Art Institute of Chicago and other museums have collected Ms. Ringgold’s quilts. The Glenstone show gave the artist more space to arrange some wall hangings alongside her sewn sculptures of people, a lesser-known part of her practice. In one area, Ms. Ringgold said she wanted to create a church-like environment by hanging textile pieces that evoke stained-glass windows behind a group of black-fabric people at a wake—part of a larger performance piece in 1976 that imagines a man’s resurrection. “That’s the idea, that they go together,” the artist said.
The show’s final gallery features the “Dahs,” a group of rainbow-hued abstracts that Ms. Ringgold painted following the death of her mother in 1981. The artist said that after years of having so much to protest and champion in her art, she was shocked to find that her grief was best expressed in wordless, colorful abstraction. “I tried to imagine what the next world looked like,” she said, “and I didn’t see sadness, so I painted a joyful, safe space.”
In the Studio With Faith Ringgold, Living Icon
by Stephanie Eckardt
“Mhm, that’s right,” Faith Ringgold says, reading the text at the bottom of her 1972 work United States of Attica: “This map of American violence is incomplete. Please write in whatever you find lacking.” We’re discussing one violent event in particular—the race riots that rocked Tulsa, Oklahoma 100 years ago—when it hits me: The massacre almost took place during Ringgold’s lifetime. The artist is now 90, and about as spry as a nonagenarian can be.
Ringgold was born and raised in Harlem, when the neighborhood’s renaissance was in full swing. (Langston Hughes and Duke Ellington lived just around the corner.) She moved into her home and studio in Englewood, New Jersey, in 1995, though not without difficulty. Ringgold knew hers wouldn’t be the only Black family—Eddie Murphy and Whitney Houston were part of the community—but her white neighbors put up such a fuss when she started building an addition for her studio that she had to take them to court. She won, of course, and some neighbors apologized—upon realizing that Ringgold was a star. At that point, it had been years since Oprah Winfrey commissioned one of Ringgold’s signature “story quilts” as a birthday gift for Maya Angelou. And yet, it’s only relatively recently, following the MoMA’s acquisition of a major work by Ringgold in 2016, and a 2017 Brooklyn Museum group show, that the era-defining artist has gotten her due.
For as long as she’s been an artist, Ringgold has been a storyteller, and she sure does have stories. Over the course of three-and-a-half hours, we barely scratch the surface. Like the time she was arrested for organizing a show on desecrating the American flag and was escorted to the Tombs, the infamous detention center in Lower Manhattan. Or when she left eggs and sanitary napkins all over the Whitney Museum of American Art while campaigning for it to exhibit more Black women artists. Once, she almost sold David Rockefeller a painting of an American flag emblazoned—very subtly—with the N word. (Upon tilting their heads to read it, the collector’s reps hastily fled.) And that wasn’t the only occasion in which Ringgold snuck subversive messages into her work. You’ll find, for example, that the words “Black power” in the painting below, from 1967, appear against a white backdrop that spells out “white power”—though only if you crane your neck to the right.
The current survey of Ringgold’s nearly six-decade-long career at Glenstone, a major American art museum that spans 300 acres of Potomac, Maryland, is full of the tales she spins on her story quilts. Quilting has a long tradition in the Ringgold family; the techniques the artist learned from her mother, the fashion designer Willi Posey, go all the way back to their enslaved ancestors. Ringgold came to quilting out of practicality; she was born with severe asthma, and had to rule out sculpture due to the dust. Painting has always been a part of her practice, but transporting a large canvas was nowhere near as easy as rolling up a quilt and tucking it under her arm.
Ringgold uses story quilts to put forth her own narratives. Her first, Who’s Afraid of Aunt Jemima? (1983), was a repudiation of the archetypal “mammy” portrayals of Black women in art. Many of the hundreds that have followed since are personal. For years, Ringgold used works like Faith Ringgold’s Over 100 Pound Weight Loss Performance Story Quilt (1991), which is among those on view at Glenstone, to hold herself accountable for her weight. She says her next series is on aging. (Also up next: a complete takeover of the New Museum, slated for early next year.)
Though she is certainly not scared of confrontation, a significant portion of Ringgold’s practice is purposely family-friendly. She created the app Quiltuduko, an art-making take on Sudoku, and has published 17 children’s books, starting in 1991 with Tar Beach. Perhaps unwittingly, Ringgold practically created a literary genre, which has taken off since last summer’s racial reckoning; Ibram X. Kendi’s Antiracist Baby, for example, is now a New York Times no. 1 bestseller.
In the 1960s, when Ringgold’s activism with the Black power movement became fully intertwined with her practice, she came to a conclusion: Works need to merit their space. American People Series #20: Die (1967), a mural-scale homage to Picasso’s Guernica, certainly deserves the six-by-12 feet it’s taken up at the MoMA since 2016. The figures in it vary in race and age, but they are all splattered with blood. Ringgold says that when she painted such harrowing, chaotic carnage, she was terrified: “I saw Die as a prophecy of our times,” she recalls. “Painting blood is serious. You can feel it. And I’ve seen it. People used to have riots all up and down the streets of New York, and you’d see the blood in the streets and look for where it was coming from, who had it on them.”
To Ringgold, the ‘60s aren’t too far off from the present-day. “Oh yeah, we just keep repeating the same crap,” she says. But she still doesn’t doubt that things will eventually change. “It's a change that's been going on since since the beginning, since the people came up and looked around and saw that each one of them was different. They had to decide who was the best, and they've been deciding and deciding and deciding.” She pauses, then laughs. “And I guess they'll just keep doing that until they find something else better to do.”
Justice Anthony Kennedy, artist Faith Ringgold receive honorary degrees from William and Mary
by staff | May 6, 2021
William & Mary will honor Anthony Kennedy, retired associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and Faith Ringgold, renowned artist, writer, teacher and lecturer, during its Commencement weekend May 21-23.
The university recently awarded the two with honorary degrees. Due to COVID precautions, both received their degrees during private events ahead of Commencement weekend and recorded brief remarks for graduates and families. Their remarks will be shared at the university’s six outdoor ceremonies at Zable Stadium.
Kennedy retired from the Supreme Court in 2018 after serving 30 years on the nation’s highest court. Kennedy took senior status on the Supreme Court. In that capacity, he continues to work in his chambers on many matters. He was nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1987 and took his seat on Feb. 18, 1988. Ringgold is renowned for her mixed media work in painting, sculpture, fabric and performance.
“It was a privilege to present honorary degrees on Justice Kennedy and Faith Ringgold earlier this month,” said President Katherine A. Rowe. “Each has advanced the values of pluralistic democracy, via transformative jurisprudence and transformative art. Each has persevered in their vision of a better world, empowering voices that have not been heard. The pandemic changes the rhythms of our ceremony this year but not our joyfulness and gratitude that they are joining us to share their wisdom with our graduates.
Justice Anthony Kennedy Born in Sacramento, California, Kennedy received his bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and his law degree from Harvard Law School. He was in private practice in San Francisco and Sacramento in the 1960s and 1970s and taught as a professor of constitutional law at the McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific. Kennedy continues to teach at McGeorge School of Law, where he is the longest-serving active faculty member.
In 1975, President Gerald Ford nominated Kennedy to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, making him the youngest federal appellate judge in the country at age 38. A decade later, he succeeded Lewis F. Powell Jr. on the U.S. Supreme Court, confirmed by the U.S. Senate with bipartisan support in a 97-to-zero vote.
During his career, Kennedy also served as a member of the California Army National Guard, on the board of the Federal Judicial Center and on two committees of the Judicial Conference of the United States.
He is currently a member of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Board of Trustees, and spoke at William & Mary Law School in 2014.
Ringgold created her first paintings, the American People series, in the 1960s. During the next decade, she traveled to Europe, Nigeria and Ghana to study masks, which have served as her greatest influence. In the 1970s, she also began making soft sculptures and working on a Tibetan art form framed in fabric.
Perhaps best known for her exceptional story-quilts, Ringgold began her work in fabric in the 1980s with the quilt, “Echoes of Harlem,” in collaboration with her mother. She created her first story quilt — “Who’s Afraid of Aunt Jemima?” — in 1983 as a way “to publish her unedited words.”
Ringgold has published myriad children’s books. “Tar Beach” has won more than 20 awards, including the Caldecott Honor and the Coretta Scott King award for best-illustrated children’s book. The book is based on a story quilt of the same name, now in the permanent collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City. In 2010, HBO created an animated version of “Tar Beach,” narrated by Natalie Cole.
Ringgold’s autobiography, “We Flew Over the Bridge: The Memoirs of Faith Ringgold,” was released in 1995.
Ringgold received her undergraduate and master’s degrees from the City College of New York. She is a professor emeritus of art at the University of California in San Diego and has received more than 20 honorary degrees.
- Faith Ringgold Artist Web Site
- Art News. The Storyteller: At 85, Her Star Still Rising, Faith Ringgold Looks Back on Her Life in Art, Activism, and Education March 10, 2016
- At Age 90, Artist Faith Ringgold Is Still Speaking Her Mind
- In the Studio With Faith Ringgold, Living Icon
- Glenstone is Hosting a Major Faith Ringgold Exhibition This Spring, Maryland Museum is Only U.S. Venue For the Expansive Survey
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