Encyclopedia of African American Artists

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R

Faith Ringgold (b. 1930), Painter, Sculptor, Quilter, Performance Artist.

Faith Ringgold was born in New York on October 8, 1930, to Andrew Lois Jones Sr. and Willi Posey Jones, the most influential person in her life. At age 12, her family moved to Sugar Hill in Harlem, where Ringgold grew up. Her paternal and maternal families had moved to New York from Florida during the Great Migration in the second decade of the twentieth century, when thousands of African Americans thronged to New York in search of greener pastures. It was a migration that Jacob Lawrence has eloquently memorialized in his paintings. Ringgold is the youngest of three children in the homestead: Barbara, her sister, and Andrew, the eldest, who died in 1961, forcing Ringgold to terminate her first trip to Europe. Because Ringgold was ravaged with chronic asthma as a child, she missed out on her kindergarten years and was jealously and prudently sheltered by a doting mother during the first years of her elementary education. Ringgold’s asthma drew her closer to her mother, who exposed her to colors and design by furnishing her with crayons and other materials. Willi Posey Jones, a seamstress and fashion designer and artist in her own right, taught Ringgold the art of sewing and of making quilts, an art form that her own grandmother had practiced as a slave. In Ringgold’s hands, and with the active collaboration of her mother, quilt making was transformed from what used to be regarded as craft to high art. Her mother introduced Ringgold to the use of fabric, and thus paved the way for the artist’s painted quilts that have become a hallmark of her creative achievement.

Ringgold attended Morris High School in the Bronx and graduated in 1948. That year, she enrolled at City College in New York. Her initial desire to enroll as a fine arts student was thwarted by a City College bylaw that precluded women from certain fields of study, apparently in pursuit of the patriarchal notion that assigned students to disciplines on the basis of gender. That was how she ended up in the School of Education, where she declared a major in art and a minor in art education. Her interest in art, regardless of the prescriptive approach that City College adopted, was apparently not negotiable. Ringgold’s enthusiasm for art and the facility that she has acquired in fabric working and quilt making at that point surpassed that of an average freshman art major. Still, it did not shield her from acerbic critiques and insensitive admonitions.

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Encyclopedia of African American Artists
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • A 1
  • B 17
  • C 35
  • D 55
  • E 77
  • F 95
  • G 99
  • H 105
  • J 117
  • K 125
  • L 133
  • M 151
  • N 169
  • O 173
  • P 181
  • R 201
  • S 211
  • T 231
  • U 239
  • V 243
  • W 247
  • Bibliography 271
  • Index 283
  • About the Author 295
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