You can’t necessarily change what’s going on, no, but I can say what I think about it. I’m free to do that. And I will.
As a Black woman living in the USA, learning about my history is something that has been heavily contested. The narrative that I have learned about my ancestors is often seen as whitewashed and trauma-filled, focusing on the handful of accomplishments we have made or the trauma we have endured (and the trauma we still going through) through the remnants of slavery.
Because I am also an arts writer, I have constantly been searching for Black women who have used their artistic capabilities to spread joy while simultaneously showing the horrors of being Black in America.
Last Fall, the FF2 team decided to do a series of posts about all of the museum-quality 2022 calendars on offer from a company called Pomegranate. Looking though the various options (featuring a total of fourteen women artists from all around the world), I found myself immediately drawn to the 2022 Faith Ringgold calendar. Little did I know, just a few short months ago, that Faith’s fame was suddenly about to explode.
The Black Power Movement enabled Black artists to express pride in their Black heritage while actively protesting against injustice against the community.
Faith became an instrumental figure during the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. The artists who participated in the Black Arts Movement focused their creative abilities on expressing their thoughts and emotions regarding the social issues of the time. This was the period of American history characterized by the emergence of the Black Power Movement, most notably embodied by members of the Black Panther Party. The Black Power Movement enabled Black artists to express pride in their Black heritage while actively protesting against injustice against the community.
Faith Ringgold is now 91 years old. And although she has worked continuously in the many decades since, it has taken all these years for her home city of New York – where she has lived for most of her life – to finally honor her by mounting the major exhibition she has so long deserved. Born in Harlem (at the north end of Manhattan) in 1930, examples of the full range of her work can be found in a retrospective at the New Museum (at the south end of Manhattan) in 2022.
It’s worth noting that this exhibition – called Faith Ringgold: American People – which opened in Manhattan in February (2022), was announced last year just after the opening of a solo show at the Serpentine Gallery in London. So, Faith’s first embrace by a prestigious European institution last September seems to have led, quite directly, to this long-overdue celebration at home.
Faith’s work has influenced generations of artists across all gender and racial continua.
The Faith Ringgold: American People exhibition at the New Museum shows how Faith’s work has had a significant impact on the art community due to its depiction of Black voices with the intersection of feminist perspectives. In this way, Faith Ringgold: American People shows how Faith’s work has influenced generations of artists across all gender and racial continua.
Faith Ringgold: American People – which is divided into sections across the New Museum’s 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floors – shows how Faith is a true multi-disciplinary artist. The 2nd-floor showcases Faith’s early work, which mostly consist of paintings on canvas. The 3rd floor holds tapestries and sculptures which put the spotlight on her increasing embrace of textiles. Finally, the 4th floor focuses on Faith’s quilt work, which has made her a household name both within the arts community and far beyond.
The New Museum has also invested in virtual events which make it possible for people to “visit” the exhibition from wherever they are, all around the world. Thus, it is possible to become acquainted with the work in this comprehensive exhibition without actually coming to New York.
…for those who cannot attend the exhibition in person for whatever reason…
Website offerings include virtual tours and Instagram live tours with curators, as well as workshops and conversations with other artists discussing the significance of her life and work in the community. For example, the On Faith: Harlem panel discussion explores the everlasting effect of Faith’s artistry on the creative community in her Harlem neighborhood, as well as nationally and globally. Also ArtTrip (a YouTube channel) carries a 23-minute tour of the exhibit for those who cannot attend the exhibition in person for whatever reason (even if they actually live in Metro NYC). What with COVID still throwing off new variants, everyone is obligated to make personal decisions about when to go out and when to stay in.
Similarly, the store at the New Museum offers numerous books, including the comprehensive Faith Ringgold: American People catalogue, which begins with a foreword from Lisa Phillips (the New Museum’s director). Lisa discusses the true significance of Faith’s work in detail. Describing how Faith has been able to seamlessly combine storytelling into a physical art form alongside her writing capabilities – in books such as Tar Beach – demonstrates how Faith continues to be such a force to be reckoned with.
Throughout the Faith Ringgold: American People catalogue, essays from influential artists, writers, and researchers explain how Faith has forever changed the art world through her determination and ability to express the need for change.
Sadly, the people of New York (and the people visiting New York) will no longer be able to see Faith Ringgold: American People at the New Museum after this week. But the good news is that beginning on July 16th Faith Ringgold: American People will be on view at the De Young Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park through November 27th. And hopefully plans are already underway for another move after that!
© Jessica Bond (6/1/22) Special for FF2 Media®
NOTE FROM JESSICA BOND
This post is the introduction to a five-part series on the Faith Ringgold: American People exhibition. In the second part, I will have more to say about Faith’s early canvases. In the third part, I will have more to say about Faith’s tapestries. In the fourth part, I will have more to say about Faith’s quilts. And in the fifth and final part, I will provide more information about what is available for purchase online via the two museum stores.
LEARN MORE/DO MORE
Read my post on Pomegranate’s 2022 Faith Ringgold calendar.
Read between the lines in this news blurb announcing plans for the Faith Ringgold: American People exhibition.
“You can’t necessarily change what’s going on, no, but I can say what I think about it. I’m free to do that. And I will.” Watch Jeffrey Brown’s full interview with Faith Ringgold on the PBS NewsHour (4/12/22)
Learn more about the Anyone Can Fly Foundation. Faith continues to serve as President of the ACFF Board, and the ACFF’s annual garden party is held every June at her home in Englewood (NJ).
Note that in addition to several popular jigsaw puzzles, Pomegranate already has a new Faith Ringgold calendar available — for online orders — for 2023:
“With bold color, inventive composition, and words written straight from the heart, Faith Ringgold’s art speaks out in a clear voice. An artist, storyteller, educator, and feminist activist, Ringgold reflects on turmoil and change while preserving her memories in vibrant mixed-media creations. Her painted story quilts blur the lines between craft and fine art while stitching together the importance of family, cultural roots, and artistic collaboration. This calendar presents 12 of her stirring images.”
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Jan Lisa Huttner (FF2 Media’s Editor-in-Chief) lives in Brooklyn. She made her pilgrimage to the New Museum on April 8th. Thus, Jan is the source of most of the images which will accompany this series. © FF2 Media® and authorized for responsible use as long as URL for this page is included with the credits.
Coming to Jones Road Part II: Sojourner Truth Tanka #2: Ain’t I A Woman?, 2010
2010 Acrylic on canvas framed with fabric 61 inches by 42 inches (154.94 centimeters by 106.68 centimeters)
“Ain’t I a woman? Sojourner Truth 1851 Akron, Ohio … That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place. And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me. And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children and seen most all sold off to slavery and when I cried out with my Mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?… Then that man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.”