The most recent regional meeting of Studio Art Quilt Associates was held at the Crocker Art Museum, where an exhibit of the work of Faith Ringgold was showing. I had previously only seen photos of her work and it was wonderful to see it in person. It is hard to capture in words the diversity of the exhibit, how it was both whimsical and profound and explored some deeply disturbing history. It was thought provoking. There is much rich detail in each piece which my photos do not capture.
The Crocker described the exhibit better than I can:
Best known for her story quilts, Faith Ringgold is also a painter, mixed-media sculptor, performance artist, activist, author, and teacher. She was born in 1930 in Harlem, New York, growing up at the start of the Great Depression and in the waning years of the Harlem Renaissance. She was surrounded by creative people and spent much of her youth cultivating her own creativity, earning her B.S. and M.A. degrees in art from City College of New York. After traveling through Europe in the early 1960s, she returned to New York, where she began her first series of political paintings, The American People, and became a major player in artistic events and political protests of the era. Since then, she has been a champion of equality and freedom of speech, helping especially to create opportunities in the art world for women artists and artists of color. This exhibition brings together more than 40 examples of Ringgold’s varied production spanning four decades. It includes story quilts, tankas (inspired by Tibetan textile paintings called thangkas), prints, oil paintings, drawings, masks, soft sculptures, and original illustrations from the artist’s award-winning book Tar Beach.
In no particular order:
Ringgold moved to Englewood, NJ where hostile neighbors objected to her plans to build a studio. She ultimately prevailed after a long battle and retreated to her artwork to heal. In this series she coupled the beauty of place with the realities of racist history.
Above is a silk screen print of one of the illustrations in her book, Tar Beach which recounts the dream adventure of a young girl who flies above her apartment, looking down on Harlem.
There were many illustrations from pages in the book, I thought this one was one of the most delightful.
At the end of Tar Beach, Cassie, the main character, and her brother fly over the George Washington Bridge. Ringgold associates flying with freedom.
I would guess Wilt was about 20′ tall and 20″ wide! He made quite a statement.
Ringgold’s Mother sewed the tankas together that she painted. In this series she features lush landscape with small nude figures trying to defend themselves. She is careful to note that they are based on reality but are imaginary depictions.
Portions of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech are in the background of this piece.
Bittter Nest is another story rooted in Ringgold’s experience expressed through fictional characters. The Grandmother here is being confronted by her grandson who thought her to be his Mother. Ringgold explained that “the men in my daughters’ lives have been a continuing issue over which we have struggled”.
I love the way Ringgold describes her youth: “I grew up in the Harlem during the Great Depression. This did not mean I was poor and oppressed. We were protectd from oppression and surrounded by a loving family”. Her parents made sure their children experienced the vibrant Harlem Renaissance.
This study related to a story quilt from The American Collection series. The Mother poses with her daughter and infant son in front of a portrait of her deceased husband. She sends her children to live with their Aunt in America so that she can pursue the life of an artist in Paris. The story is loosely based on Ringgold’s own Mother.
I just had to include this for the pure fun of it! Locals the exhibit is up until May 13-you really want to see this one in person-photos just don’t do it.
The Crocker Art Museum consists of two main buildings, an old Victorian Mansion and a new, contemporary addition. The buildings themselves are works of art. I noticed this lovely detail in the Victorian portion-isn’t that gorgeous?
I’ll be linking to Nina-Marie’s Off the Wall Friday to join up with other interesting links.