Faith Ringgold Artist Portraying The African American Experience Dies Aged 93

Faith Ringgold Obituary

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.

Faith Ringgold Photo: © Artlyst 2024
Faith Ringgold Photo: © Artlyst 2024

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.

Faith Ringgold Photo: © Artlyst 2024
Faith Ringgold Photo: © Artlyst 2024

Faith Ringgold

Faith Ringgold was an African American artist known for her multifaceted contributions to art and literature. Born in 1930s Harlem, she grew up in a vibrant cultural community that greatly influenced her artistic sensibilities.

Both the struggles and triumphs marked Ringgold’s early life. She was raised amid the Harlem Renaissance and exposed to the rich tapestry of Black culture, music, and art. Her mother, a fashion designer, and her father, a New York City sanitation worker, provided a nurturing environment that encouraged her creative pursuits.

Her father’s departure from the family at an early age and her brother’s tragic racist death drove Ringgold to find solace and inspiration in art. She attended the City College of New York, earning both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in art and education, laying the foundation for her future career as an artist and educator.

Throughout her five-decade-long career, Ringgold explored themes of race, gender, identity, and social justice through various mediums, including painting, sculpture, quilting, performance art, and literature. She became known for her iconic “story quilts,” large-scale narrative works that combined painting, fabric, and storytelling to depict the experiences of African Americans.

Ringgold’s work often drew from her own experiences and observations, offering poignant reflections on the struggles and triumphs of Black life in America. Her bold and vibrant visual style, characterised by saturated colours and flattened perspectives, captured the attention of audiences worldwide and earned her widespread acclaim.

Faith Ringgold Photo: © Artlyst 2024
Faith Ringgold Photo: © Artlyst 2024

In addition to her work as a visual artist, Ringgold was also a prolific writer and illustrator. She penned several children’s books, including the award-winning “Tar Beach,” inspired by one of her most famous quilts. Through her storytelling, Ringgold aimed to empower young readers and celebrate the resilience and creativity of African American culture.

Beyond her artistic achievements, Ringgold was also a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion in the art world. She challenged the status quo by actively promoting the work of Black artists and women in significant museums and galleries, paving the way for future creatives.

Ringgold received numerous accolades and honours throughout her life for her groundbreaking contributions to the arts. Her work is included in collections from prestigious institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, ensuring her enduring legacy as one of America’s most influential artists. Ringgold’s commitment to using art as a tool for social change continues to inspire and resonate with audiences worldwide.

Top Portrait Courtesy ACA Galleries NY © All rights reserved

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