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Faith Ringgold Dies: 'Tar Beach' Author and Black Quilt Artist Dies at 93

Faith Ringgold Dies: 'Tar Beach' Author and Black Quilt Artist Dies at 93

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Faith Ringgold, in her studio in New York City in 1999.

(CNN) – Faith Ringgold, the pioneering artist and author best known for her narrative blending art and activism, has died at the age of 93. The New York Times was the first to report the news of Ringgold's death at her home in New Jersey on Saturday.

“Faith leaves behind an influential legacy of activism and advocacy for diversity and inclusion that has left a lasting mark on the art world, inspiring countless others to use their voices as a tool for social change,” said Dorian Bergen, President of ACA Galleries. who has represented Ringgold for nearly three decades, in a statement provided to CNN. “We will miss her greatly, and we remain committed to continuing this legacy by sharing her work, philosophies and life with the world.”

Born in 1930 in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance, Ringgold drew inspiration from the turbulent social realities she experienced. As a student, her formal introduction to the arts was all but curtailed by New York City College regulations at the time, which restricted women to specific majors—and art was not one of them. However, Ringgold's persistence led her to it Make a deal With a school principal: Her artistic studies were primarily conditional on enrolling in a school of education where women were allowed.

after She obtained a bachelor's degree in Fine Arts and Education In 1955, Ringgold began teaching art in public schools while developing her own art. She later earned a master's degree in art from City College in 1959. Her early work was influenced by civil unrest and racism, and had a deeply political and social tone.

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Between 1963 and 1967, Ringgold depicted America's fraught race relations in a series of paintings titled the “American People Series.” The series' final painting, “The American People Series No. 20: Die,” is a vivid critique of the violent riots of the civil rights era. The painting, arguably the most famous of the series, brutally depicts a group of men, women and children brutally attacking each other. It is now part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

“I became fascinated by the ability of art to document the time, place, and cultural identity of the artist,” she said. Museum of Modern Art. “How can I, as an African American artist, document what is happening around me?”

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Faith Ringgold is photographed during a preview of a 2013 exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., with her 1967 painting “American People Series #20: Die” partially visible in the background. “I didn't want people to be able to look in and look away,” Ringgold said at the preview. “I want them to look and see. I want to hold their eyes and hug them, because this is America.”

Ringgold's early work did not enjoy much success at the time, prompting the mother of two to take her activism to the streets for causes such as the representation of women – especially black women – in mainstream art galleries and collections. In 1970, Ringgold was arrested and charged with desecration of the American flag for participating in organizing the “Popular Flag Parade.”“,” An exhibition protesting the Vietnam War, and artists' First Amendment right to use science as material.

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“They didn't keep me for long because the media was watching.” She told the New York Times of her sentence.

The painter immerses viewers in highly realistic water worlds

Around the same time, Ringgold began incorporating new materials into her art. She tried sculpting in wood and clay, but the dust gave her asthma and forced her to turn to more forgiving materials, especially canvas. Having explored international artistic media such as African textiles and Tibetan furnishings Known as thangka, the latter inspired the medium that has become synonymous with it: quilts.

In 1980, Ringgold collaborated with her mother, Madame Willy Bussy, a fashion designer and seamstress, to create her first quilt titled “Echoes of HarlemRinggold wove the lives of African Americans and black women into her quilts, making them shine She pointed out Like paintings made “in the middle of quilting.” Its 1986″“Over 100 Pounds of Weight Loss Performance Story” He mocked the contradictory social expectations of women. Between 1990 and 1997, she created a series of 12 quilts titled “French group“Exploring themes of black feminism through the story of a young black woman in the 1920s who left Harlem for Paris to become an artist.

In recent years, several art institutions have organized retrospective exhibitions celebrating Ringgold's pioneering vision and work. “I'm very aware of the attention I'm getting now in the art world, and I'm grateful,” Ringgold told The New York Times in 2019. “But I also realize that it took a very long time.”

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In 2019, a survey of Ringgold's artwork was shown at the Serpentine in London, and in 2022, the New Museum in New York organized a retrospective entitled “Faith Ringgold: The American People.” The exhibition then made stops at the de Young Museum in San Francisco and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, concluding last February.

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Ringgold's 1997 work, “Flag Bleeds No. 2,” is on display during a preview at Art Basel on December 4, 2019, in Miami Beach, Florida.

In addition to her artistic works, Ringgold was Famous children's author. Many of her children's books, such as the award-winning “Tar Beach” and “Dinner at Aunt Connie's,” were based on her narrative quilts and vividly illustrated the complexity of African American life and history intended to uplift children.

Tar Beach, which tells the story of a young black girl in Harlem during the Great Depression, has been criticized for its crude depiction of African American life and culture. I faced attempts To remove it from primary school libraries.

“I hope that my art will inspire people and that they will find the courage as I did to do whatever they feel called to do,” Ringgold said. wallpaper magazine In 2022, “It takes courage to be free and express your own vision. “Everyone is important and has a unique story to tell.”