In Memoriam: Artists, Curators, and Friends Remember Faith Ringgold as a 'Great Artist,' 'Fearless Activist,' and 'Blessing to All of Us' - Culture Type (2024)

In Memoriam: Artists, Curators, and Friends Remember Faith Ringgold as a 'Great Artist,' 'Fearless Activist,' and 'Blessing to All of Us' - Culture Type (1)
An Evening with Faith Ringgold: Serpentine Galleries hosted a conversation with the artist, conducted by Artistic Director Hans Ulrich Obrist at Conway Hall in London (June 6, 2019). | Photo © Talie Rose Eigeland

AN EXTRAORDINARY ARTIST known for her political paintings and story quilts, Faith Ringgold, (1930-2024) lived a long and productive life. When she died on April 13, she was 93. Born in Harlem, Ringgold lived and worked in Englewood, N.J. Active for more than six decades, she did it all. Ringgold was an artist, activist, educator, and author. Her artistic practice bridged fine art and craft, spanning painting, prints, quilts, soft sculpture, and performance. A masterful storyteller, her insightful works challenged institutions, illuminated America’s racial ills, and explored the experiences of women and her own biography.

Culture Type reached out to artists, curators, and others who knew and worked with Ringgold over the decades to gather their memories and create a layered portrait of the celebrated artist. Michele Wallace, Ringgold’s daughter and a scholar of her work, and Grace Matthews, her longtime studio assistant and former student, were helpful on this front, recommending a handful of additional people familiar with Ringgold’s education work in New York public schools and her book publishing, for example.

Ringgold inspired, influenced, and left a lasting impression. Mary Schmidt Campbell said Ringgold “was a great artist, her greatness not yet fully acknowledged.” Hans Ulrich Obrist declared her “among the most important figurative and political painters of our time.” From Susan Cahan’s perspective, Ringgold was a “fearless activist.”

She was also fabulous with her own artful sense of style. A few people made reference to it. In her tribute, Cahan noted that in a historic photo of Ringgold protesting in front to the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1971, she has on a fur coat. The first time Campbell met Ringgold, they were on a New York City bus and the artist “wore a mink and sunglasses.” More recently, Emily Rales recalled when Ringgold previewed her exhibition at Glenstone Museum in 2021, her blue sequined face mask matched her boots. Dindga McCannon lamented she is still to this day trying find sequin-embellished Uggs like Ringgold’s available in her size.

Meanwhile, Dawn Brooks DeCosta, a public school superintendent in Harlem, described Ringgold as “a blessing to all of us and a major impact on the leader I am today.” The array of experiences, anecdotes, and remembrances shared reflects Ringgold’s expansive output, complex legacy, and profound contributions to art history.

A score of reflections is featured below in alphabetical order and concludes with a portrait of Ringgold and Wallace by Annie Leibovitz. The renowned photographer made the portrait last year and shared the image with Culture Type for this tribute:


FAITH RINGGOLD, “American People Series #20: Die,” 1967 (oil on canvas, two panels, 72 × 144 inches / 182.9 × 365.8 cm). © Faith Ringgold. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the generosity of The Modern Women’s Fund, Ronnie F. Heyman, Glenn and Eva Dubin, Lonti Ebers, Michael S. Ovitz, Daniel and Brett Sundheim, and Gary and Karen Winnick

Peg Alston
Founder, Peg Alston Fine Arts, New York, N.Y.

MY CONTACT WITH FAITH RINGGOLD goes back to 1970s when I exhibited her works. Interest in Black artists at that time was practically non-existent. Despite this, I recall Faith’s indomitable spirit as she forged paths in breaking through the many barriers that existed. Faith’s art reflected the issues that continue to demand our attention and resolution. She will forever be remembered as a powerful, positive and extremely creative force.

Diedrick Brackens
Artist, Los Angeles, Calif.

I THINK OF FAITH RINGGOLD’S WORK and life as a library. Her’s is a vast repository of knowledge that centers her transit through life and opens in the mind of creatives the potency of telling your own story, the space for language in your art, and above all the possibilities of action connected to art making. In 1970, Ringgold was arrested in connection with the exhibition, “The Flag Show.” The New York show, among other things, was a protest of U.S. involvement in Vietnam and an authoritarian flag desecration law—American flags were burned, trampled, and altered.

Ringgold was an activist. Never quiet, the words and actions she left render her critical of most everything that animates the art world. In our collective anxiety to redeem her, in our collective remembrance, I pray we do not sanitize her, and that we share her full knowledge.


FAITH RINGGOLD, “Woman on a Bridge #1 of 5: Tar Beach,” 1988 (acrylic paint, canvas, printed fabric, ink, and thread, 74 5/8 × 68 ½ inches / 189.5 × 174 cm). | © Faith Ringgold. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Gus and Judith Leiber, 88.3620

Marie Brown
Literary Agent and Publishing Consultant, New York, N.Y.

IT HAS BEEN AN AWE-INSPIRING EXPERIENCE to witness Faith Ringgold’s dedication and artistic commitment to creating and publishing an exceptional collection of published works, especially books for our youngest readers. During the early fall of 1989, Faith requested that we meet with Andrea Cascardi, an editor at Crown Books (Random House) who had reached out to her to inquire about her “Tar Beach” quilt being reproduced as a children’s picture book. Faith was excited about the possibility and so was I. Soon after that initial meeting, Andrea advocated for and acquired “Tar Beach” for publication, with the support of her editorial colleague Simon Boughton. This exceptional publishing opportunity marked the beginning of our enduring friendship and professional relationship.

“Tar Beach” was published in 1991 and become the first of Faith’s 18 children’s books. Her other original books include “Bonjour Lonnie,” “Dinner at Aunt Connie’s House,” “The Invisible Princess,” and “We Came to America.” Faith’s highly imaginative narratives and illuminating paintings portraying both new and familiar historical characters include the contemporary classics “If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks,” “Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky” (about Harriet Tubman), and “Harlem Renaissance Party.” For so many of us who experience the spirited and historical inclusiveness of her work, Faith, the artist, educator, activist, and author, is a dynamic reminder of what it means during these challenging times to be a beacon of diverse representation in our universe of children’s books. The bold and beautiful picture book art and original stories that she created continue to teach and entertain our youngest citizens, their families, and educators. Read More


Wendell George Brown and Faith Ringgold in her New Jersey studio, 2008. | Courtesy Wendell George Brown

Wendell George Brown
Fiber Artist
Professor of Art, Benedict College, Columbia, S.C.

FAITH RINGGOLD: PASSING OF A NORTH STAR | One of my first tasks as Faith Ringgold’s assistant in the early 1990s was interviewing her about being an artist and her book “Tar Beach.” This Scholastic Books project was a joy! I interviewed Faith, and actress Ruby Dee narrated the book. Recalling Faith’s interview forced me to think about one of my favorite works by Faith, “Wake and Resurrection of the Bicentennial Negro” (1976). Along with this work, watching Faith magically paint muses, “Le Café des Artistes” (1991) and “Joe Baker’s Birthday” (1993), I understood what intrigued me most about Faith’s soft sculpture installation, “Wake and Resurrection.” It was her choice of using black fabric to represent Black people and her unique ability to masterfully merge African, African American, and European artistic and cultural influences to soulfully tell stories of Black, female, and human experiences. There are people like my parents, grandparents, and now Faith Ringgold, who you want to believe will be here forever. I realize now that forever is not a reality. To me, Faith was a North Star. Her light lit paths and will forever light paths for anyone to fly.


JAN VAN RAAY, Faith Ringgold (right) and Michele Wallace (center) at a Black Emergency Cultural Coalition (BECC) protest at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, N.Y., January 31, 1971 (digital C-print). | Courtesy Jan van Raay Portland, Ore., 305-307. Copyright © Jan van Raay

Susan Cahan
Dean, Tyler School of Art and Architecture, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pa.

FAITH RINGGOLD WAS A FEARLESS ACTIVIST, a loving humanitarian, and a savvy negotiator. She broke barriers that excluded Black artists—especially Black women—with confidence, flair, and power. A widely published photograph shows Faith boldly picketing the Whitney Museum of American Art, in early 1971, wearing a dashing fur coat. She was a leader and organizer with the Art Workers’ Coalition; Art Strike; the Ad Hoc Women’s Committee; and co-founder of WSABAL (Women Students and Artists for Black Art Liberation), which consisted mainly of Faith and her daughters, Barbara and Michele. Less well-known, were her influential behind-the scenes political skills.The appointment of the first Black trustee of The Museum of Modern Art came out of a conversation she had with the director of the museum at her kitchen table. Faith was a glorious powerhouse who forged her own path and paved the way for others.

Susan Cahan is the author of “Mounting Frustration: The Art Museum in the Age of Black Power” (2016). The book includes Faith Ringgold’s early activism protesting New York museums

“Faith Ringgold was a fearless activist, a loving humanitarian, and a savvy negotiator. She broke barriers that excluded Black artists—especially Black women—with confidence, flair, and power.” — Susan Cahan

Mary Schmidt Campbell
President Emerita, Spelman College (2015-2022)
Former Executive Director, Studio Museum in Harlem (1977-1987)

KEEPING THE FAITH: A TRIBUTE TO FAITH RINGGOLD | Faith Ringgold and I met on a New York City bus. I was a threadbare graduate student, and she wore a mink and sunglasses. We both had just visited a Romare Bearden exhibition at the Cordier-Ekstrom Gallery and were pleasantly surprised to learn on our bus ride uptown, that we had a lot in common. She, of course, was a great artist, her greatness not yet fully acknowledged. I was an admiring student of great artists, like her. Faith and I re-united often in the years that followed. As a member of the Black Artists Collective at Syracuse University, I invited her to Syracuse as a guest lecturer. She brought her soft sculptures in a suitcase and lectured on women artists. We were blown away by the depth of knowledge, and the honesty and inventiveness of her art.

After graduate school, when I joined the Studio Museum in Harlem (SMH), the museum was hell-bent on assembling solo exhibitions and retrospectives of Black artists, whom we believed were world class, yet had been overlooked. The museum approached Faith and asked to mount a retrospective of her work. The critically acclaimed show, curated by Terrie Rouse-Rosario, opened in 1984 and consumed the entire museum. Attention to Faith’s work soared. My one regret is that, after I left SMH, I did not buy one of her quilts. Masterpieces of visual narrative, the quilts combine personal history and cultural heritage to tell stories we need to preserve. Literally, they “Keep the Faith.” Condolences to Michele, Barbara, and her three grandchildren. Rest in Glory, Queen Faith.


FAITH RINGOLD, “Mother’s Quilt,” 1983 (acrylic, appliquéd and embroidered fabric, and sequins, 58 × 43 ½ inches /147.3 × 110.5 cm). | Collection Ed Bradley and Patricia Blanchet


Artist Faith Ringgold. | © 2022 Faith Ringgold, Courtesy ACA Galleries, New York

Dawn Brooks DeCosta
Deputy Superintendent, Harlem Community School District 5,
New York, N.Y.

FAITH RINGGOLD HAS BEEN A MENTOR TO ME starting early in my career more than 25 years ago as an art educator in Harlem, New York. As a longtime art educator and Harlem resident, she was interested in connecting to her roots and the excitement of being in the classroom. Faith’s approach to teaching art of the African diaspora shaped my teaching and later my leadership as a principal for 11 years. Faith shared her books, conducted read alouds, taught art lessons, did workshops with families during all my years as a teacher and principal. Starting in 2010, she held a yearly Art With Kids contest for the children of Harlem and hosted an annual garden party at her home, where they had the opportunity to be in her studio, see her work, and be honored for their own work. Today, we have winners who are college graduates. Faith kept up with the students and provided them with college scholarships as they advanced in their educational careers. She was a blessing to all of us and a major impact on the leader I am today.

Lisa Farrington
Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Art History,
City University of New York (CUNY), New York, N.Y.

I FIRST SAW A FAITH RINGGOLD PAINTING as a Howard University student in the 1970s. I was overwhelmed by a painting entitled “Die,” which was relatively unknown at the time. Today, it hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in the same gallery as Picasso’s Demoiselles D’avignon. Whatever else I learned that semester, I don’t remember. Ringgold’s painting shook me, as it represented the racial unrest of the age and the Pop art phenomenon. Many years later, when I was choosing a dissertation topic for my Ph.D., Faith Ringgold came to mind, as she had since become a leader of the women’s art movement. I made her acquaintance and she supported me through my dissertation (“Faith Ringgold: the Early Works & the Evolution of the Thangka Paintings,” 1997), and multiple subsequent projects about her and women’s art. I went on to serve on the board of her Anyone Can Fly foundation for 20 years. Ringgold was my dear friend and her creativity, tenacity, political engagement, and intestinal fortitude have inspired my life and my career. I miss her greatly.


Installation view of “Faith Ringgold: American People,” New Museum, New York, N.Y., 2022. Shown, At right, FAITH RINNGOLD, “Early Works #25: Self-Portrait,” 1965 (oil on canvas, 50 × 40 inches /127 × 101.6 cm), Brooklyn Museum. Gift of Elizabeth A. Sackler, 2013.96 | Photo by Dario Lasagni. Courtesy New Museum. © Faith Ringgold / ARS, NY and DACS, London, Courtesy ACA Galleries, New York 2022

Massimiliano Gioni
Artistic Director, New Museum, New York, N.Y.

WORKING WITH FAITH RINGGOLD on her New Museum retrospective “American People”—her largest exhibition ever—was simply one of the most important experiences of my life. By the time I met her and started working on the exhibition, Ringgold was already a living legend, at least in my eyes. To me, she had attained what in Japan is known as the status of “National Living Treasure”: a living monument that, through her work and her being, encapsulates the entire history of a country. Not only she was one of the most important and influential artists of the 20th and 21st centuries—and I don’t use this description lightly—but she had also effectively rebuilt the edifice of American culture as we know it.

Through her work as an activist, curator, writer, and pedagogue, she had entirely reimagined the role of museums and institutions in this country, opening their doors and windows to vast portions of the American populace that had been unjustly excluded from them. As was the case with many artists of her generation—particularly many Black artists and women artists of her generation—she not only had to focus on making her own work, but she had to rebuild the entire house of art and culture in America, creating the conditions for her own work and the work of her peers to exist in the public sphere. She did all this with determination and grace, enveloping the whole world and her many fans in the “soft library”—as artist Diedrick Brackens described it—of her story quilts.


Faith Ringgold and Thelma Golden, Studio Museum in Harlem Spring Luncheon, 2016 (Ringgold’s daughter Michele Wallace is the background at left). | Photo: Julie Skarratt, Courtesy Studio Museum in Harlem

Thelma Golden
Director and Chief Curator, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, N.Y.

BORN IN HARLEM, Faith Ringgold was an inimitable artist and activist who was unflinchingly dedicated to depicting Black life as she lived it—in all its joys, hopes, cruelties, and revolutions. On canvas, paper, tile, and most notably, quilt, Faith cast a light on intimate tales of personal memory and grand moments of American politics and culture. But she didn’t just portray reality, she had an active hand in transforming it. As a truth-teller and a changemaker, she was deeply attuned to the exclusion of Black women artists and feminist art from cultural organizations, and, in response, created coalitions, protested institutions, and fiercely spoke out in order to create space not just for herself, but for women artists as a whole. In doing so, she paved the foundation for curators like myself, who have made it our duty to ensure that the voices of Black women artists find their rightful place in art history.

Of course, I am compelled to reflect on the many ways in which Faith’s career is intertwined with the Studio Museum in Harlem. Though just one exhibition of many, I look back fondly on “Faith Ringgold: Twenty Years of Painting, Sculpture, and Performance, 1963–1983,” a solo presentation of Faith’s work held at the museum in 1984. And, in our permanent collection, we are honored to steward “Echoes of Harlem” (1980), the first of her seminal story quilts. Although these provide just a snapshot of Faith’s singular artistry, what is made clear is that she is not just a vital figure in the art historical canon, but a once-in-a-lifetime visionary who played a crucial role in redefining it.

Faith Ringgold “paved the foundation for curators like myself, who have made it our duty to ensure that the voices of Black women artists find their rightful place in art history.” — Thelma Golden

Curlee Raven Holton
Founding Director and Master Printer, Raven Fine Art Editions, Easton, Pa.; Former Director, David C. Driskell Center, University of Maryland, College Park (2012-2023)

FAITH RINGGOLD: BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL | We lost Faith Ringgold this year in her 93rd year. She lived a dynamic and impactful life as an artist, writer and activist. She inspired generations of artists, especially women who had not had real access to the art world and its opportunities. She refused to accept “no” as an answer to her requests for an equal playing field and that the doors be open to her and other marginalized artists. She succeeded in breaking down those barriers on her own terms with her brilliant mind and creative genius. Her art was not only her voice, it was our voice—the voice of the disenfranchised whose humanity was often dismissed or denied.

I first met Faith in the summer of 1992 during a visit to her studio in Harlem. She had been selected as Grossman Artist-in-Residence at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa. As part of our introduction to her, a small group visited her in her studio prior to her delivering a lecture at Lafayette. It was clear to all of us just how regal and important she was. I had first heard of her through the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop, where I studied before becoming a professor at Lafayette.

The following spring (1993), she came to present her lecture to a full audience of admirers. I invited her to visit my classroom/print workshop and she agreed. She sat down with my students and immediately began a dialogue about art and the art world. I had already prepared an etching plate with a drawing tool where she was seated. I asked if she would draw whatever she felt like and my class and I would make a print for her. Read More

Curlee Raven Holton received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Faith Ringgold’s Anyone Can Fly Foundation in 2015


Installation view of “Faith Ringgold: American People,” New Museum, New York, N.Y., 2022. Shown, Detail of various life-size “Mask” sculptures, including at forefront, from left, “Bena,” 1973, “Pop Mask,” 1973, and “Mourner’s Mask #1,” 1973. | Photo by Dario Lasagni. Courtesy New Museum. © Faith Ringgold / ARS, NY and DACS, London, Courtesy ACA Galleries, New York 2022


Installation view of “Faith Ringgold: American People,” New Museum, New York, N.Y., 2022. Shown, FAITH RINGGOLD, “For the Women’s House,” 1971 (oil on canvas, 96 x 96 inches / 243.84 x 243.84 cm), Brooklyn Museum. Courtesy New York City Department of Corrections. | Photo by Dario Lasagni. Courtesy New Museum. © Faith Ringgold / ARS, NY and DACS, London, Courtesy ACA Galleries, New York 2022

Tomashi Jackson
Artist, New York, N.Y., and Cambridge, Mass.

FAITH RINGGOLD: FOR THE WOMEN’S HOUSE | I first learned about the Faith Ringgold in New York City as an undergraduate student of art in 2005. I saw “For the Women’s House” at the Brooklyn Museum for the first time and was absolutely spellbound by the mural on canvas about women, which she made for the Women’s House of Detention on Rikers Island in 1971. The mural depicts women across ethnicities doing everything they desired as free people, using geometry, color, and figuration! The artists and work I’d learned about in primary school, high school, and one year of art college, between 1986 and 1999, were rarely, if ever, artists whose vision reflected narratives of communities and priorities that I recognized intimately. In California, artists’ paintings in public spaces did that for me. On the East Coast, I’d been desperately looking for public art that visualized liberation through painting and was lucky to find Faith in a museum, again and again.

Lucy Lippard
Writer, Art Critic, Activist, and Curator, New York, N.Y.

FAITH RINGGOLD WAS A MOTHER, DAUGHTER, ARTIST, storyteller, daring activist, and a strong and confident organizer—an incredibly impressive (and elegant) woman. Working with her from the late 1960s was an education in itself for a young white woman just diving into activism. In the Art Workers’ Coalition (AWC), she expanded any notions I had about feminism. In the fall of 1970, she (along with Brenda Miller, Poppy Johnson, and then me) began the Ad Hoc Women Artists’ Committee to protest the pathetic ratio of women included in the Whitney then-Annual. I had an anti-racist familial background, but these were my inspiring introductions to direct action. Faith attributed her fearlessness to the fact that, as she said: “I’m not a member of those groups that would profit from being on the cutting edge. I’m not a man and I’m not white. So I can do what I want to do and that has been my greatest gift.” (1)

Faith Ringgold was a “daring activist, and a strong and confident organizer—an incredibly impressive (and elegant) woman. Working with her from the late 1960s was an education in itself for a young white woman just diving into activism.” — Lucy Lippard


FAITH RINGGOLD, “American People Series #18: The Flag Is Bleeding,” 1967 (oil on canvas, 72 × 96 inches / 182.9 × 243.8 cm). | © Faith Ringgold. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Patrons’ Permanent Fund and Gift of Glenstone Foundation (2021.28.1)


Faith Ringgold and Dindga McCannon, both wearing embellished Ugg boots, greet one another at the opening of Ringgold’s “American People” exhibition at the New Museum in New York, 2022. | Courtesy Dindga McCannon

Dindga McCannon
Artist, Philadelphia, Pa.
Co-Founder, Where We At, Black Women Artists, New York, N.Y. (1971)

MEMORIES OF FAITH | To me, Faith Ringgold is a warrior queen. I don’t remember much of our interactions, but I remember having this conversation with her and Kay Brown about how hard it was to be a Black woman artist. How “the guys,” as she put it, weren’t very supportive of us and didn’t give us equal access to the few exhibiting spaces there were. That conversation eventually led to us calling every Black woman we could find, meeting up in my studio, and two meetings after that we became Where We At, Black Women Artists (WWABWA), the first collective of Black women artists ever. We lasted 25 years.

There was a WWABWA meeting at Faith’s apartment on 145th Street. Most of us barely had two pennies to rub together, but Faith had a maid, dressed just like the ones in the movies! And she served us refreshments. We thought that was so kool (sic)!

I was the only woman of six Black artists selected to be a part of the Studio Museum’s 1971 program called “Studio in the Streets.” We decided to do two murals, one of which was on 128th Street in Harlem, between Fifth and Madison Avenues. The wall was divided into six equal spaces. I don’t remember when I first met Faith (it was probably earlier in 1971), but I so loved and admired her spirit that I filled the wall with images of Black women in my section and named it “Wall of Women- Dedicated to Faith Ringgold.” Read More

“I remember having this conversation with [Faith Ringgold] and Kay Brown about how hard it was to be a Black woman artist. How ‘the guys,’ as she put it, weren’t very supportive of us and didn’t give us equal access to the few exhibiting spaces there were.” — Dindga McCannon


Faith Ringgold and Beverly McIver in 2017, when McIver received the Anyone Can Fly Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award. | Courtesy Beverly McIver

Beverly McIver
Artist and Professor of the Practice of Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Duke University, Durham, N.C.

I HAVE FOND MEMORIES of Faith Ringgold. At the beginning of my career, when I was so afraid to be an artist because there were very few Black women artists recognized in the art world, it was Faith who said to me, “I’m a Black woman artist and I am successful.” Those words and her beautiful presence became an affirmation that I too, could succeed as an artist. That was the start of a lifelong friendship and mentorship that would mold me into the artist I am today. Faith was a role model for many. Her generous nature left such a legacy, particularly by way of her foundation, Anyone Can Fly, which helped artists of all disciplines by awarding scholarships and providing recognition to artists under the radar. I, along with another mentor of mine, Richard Mayhew, have received Faith’s Lifetime Achievement Award. I love and miss Faith. She was like a second mom to me, and I will be forever grateful for her being my friend and a supporter of my art.

Hans Ulrich Obrist
Artistic Director, Serpentine Galleries, London, UK

FAITH RINGGOLD IS AMONG THE MOST IMPORTANT figurative and political painters of our time. Harnessing the power of storytelling to remind us of our history, she challenged perceptions of African American identity and gender inequality for over five decades. Growing up in the creative and intellectual context of the Harlem Renaissance, she is widely recognized for her painted story quilts combining personal narratives, history, and politics in order to, as she has said, “tell my story, or more to the point, my side of the story.” For Ringgold, the political was personal and the personal was political. Her philosophy that “Anyone can fly, all you gotta do is try” was a testament to her perseverance and commitment as an artist and activist, and along with her work, she continued to inspire future generations of artists and children.

Serpentine Galleries in London presented “Faith Ringgold” in 2019. The show was the artist’s first European institutional exhibition.

“Faith Ringgold is among the most important figurative and political painters of our time.” — Hans Ulrich Obrist


An Evening with Faith Ringgold: Serpentine Galleries hosted a conversation with the artist, conducted by Artistic Director Hans Ulrich Obrist (left), at Conway Hall in London (June 6, 2019). Shown, In background on the screen, FAITH RINGGOLD, “United States of Attica,” 1972 (offset lithograph). | Photo © Talie Rose Eigeland

Emily Rales
Founder and Chief Curator, Glenstone Museum, Potomac, Md.

REMEMBERING FAITH | Faith Ringgold visited us for the first time in March 2021, a few days before her first American career survey exhibition opened at Glenstone Museum. She insisted on wearing a face mask (blue and sequined, to match her boots) as she wandered through the show, gazing at her figurative acrylic paintings from the late 1960s, which were made at a time of searing political and social unrest. In awe at her own audacity and creative prowess, she murmured, “it’s very moving.” She regaled us with many stories that day, and we, too, were awestruck by her courage—not only to raise her voice, but to reinvent it time and again through painting, sculpture, story quilts, literature, performance, and more. It was freedom of speech and freedom of expression that she championed above all else. Artists, she said, “have the means of expression: the musicians, the theater people, the writers, the visual artists. If they lose their freedom, that’s it. That’s our job, to say what we feel about our times.”

Sonny Rollins
Tenor Saxophonist and Composer, Woodstock, N.Y.

I KNEW FAITH from when we were both children. For me to think of her as a cultural figure, I don’t have a lot of experience thinking of her in that grown-up sense. I wanted to do music, and she wanted to do art. I remember when I came back from practicing on the Williamsburg Bridge and I was playing at a club on the Lower East Side, on E. 8th Street, way over near Avenue B. Faith and a friend of mine came down to see me. She and my friend, my buddy—we were all from the same block on Edgecombe Avenue. Faith coming down to see me that night showed me that we all had something in common, which was our determination to create. I began hearing these fantastic things about her, more and more, then I realized that she had really broken through. Again, we were kids, and it was really great to see her make it at such a high level.

Sonny Rollins and Faith Ringgold were honorary degree recipients at Rutgers University’s 2009 commencement. The recognition coincided with an exhibition of Ringgold’s work at Rutgers’ Mason Gross Galleries and the donation of her papers to the Miriam Schapiro Archives of Women Artists at Rutgers. “Sonny’s Bridge” (1986), a painted quilt work by Ringgold, graced the cover of The New Yorker magazine posthumously in tribute to the artist.


FAITH RINGGOLD, “Sonny’s Bridge,” 1986 (acrylic on canvas with printed and pieced fabric, 84 ½ × 60 inches / 214.6 × 152.4 cm). | © Faith Ringgold. High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Ga. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Ronald D. Balser


FAITH RINGGOLD, Black Light Series #7: Ego Painting, 1969 (oil on canvas, 30 × 30 inches / 76.2 × 76.2 cm). | © Faith Ringgold. Art Institute of Chicago. Wilson L. Mead Trust Fund; Claire and Gordon Prussian Fund for Contemporary Art; Mr. and Mrs. Frank G. Logan Purchase Prize Fund; Ada S. Garrett Prize, Flora Mayer Witkowsky Purchase Prize, Gordon Prussian Memorial, Emilie L. Wild Prize, William H. Bartels Prize, William and Bertha Clusmann Prize, Max V. Kohnstamm Prize, and Pauline Palmer Prize funds

Kirsten Weiss
Founder, Weiss Publications, New York, N.Y.

FAITH CARED ABOUT EVERY SINGLE THING, and everyone, with an intensity and precision that was magnificent. I met Faith after she—in my mind—miraculously responded to an email I had sent her via her website in 2016, and she invited me to her home in Englewood, N.J. From then on, we planned an exhibition and several public events in Berlin and went on to publish a book on her work during the 1970s.

In Berlin, Faith tirelessly took interest in every aspect of society, history and her surroundings. While we drove around the city in a rental car (mine being too old and not presentable in my estimation), she frequently responded to different special and everyday sights and corresponding information with a genuine, soft, and wide-eyed reply of “far out.” The Distinguished W.E.B. DuBois Lecture she gave at Humboldt University was attended by several hundred guests, many of whom came to see her show at WeissBerlin Gallery in the following weeks. Among her favorite visitors was a group of 10th grade students. Faith gave an introduction about her work to the group. She also interviewed the students to get a sense of their perception of the world around them. What were their feelings on oppression, power relations, their daily lives, their goals? These were the kinds of questions she asked.

From our conversations over time, we developed the idea to produce a book focused on Faith’s seminal work during the 1960s and 70s when she established her voice as a feminist and within the Black Arts Movement. Her uncompromising values are reflected in the content of the work as well as her exacting material and formal processes that allowed her to develop radically new themes and aesthetics. Together with her daughter Michele Wallace, we were able to produce the book, Politics / Power, during the Corona pandemic. I am thankful to have been able to spend those days with Michele and Faith going through artworks and archival materials. Every moment with Faith seemed like a moment where curiosity, connection, and possibilities would be created. I’m thankful I was able to learn from Faith Ringgold.

Deborah Willis
Artist, University Professor and Chair, Department of Photography & Imaging, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, New York, N.Y.

FAITH RINGGOLD IS AN INSPIRING FIGURE in my life in name and in memory. As an art student, I ran into her at a College Art Association meeting and later at WCA (Women’s Caucus for Art) gatherings, Soho galleries, art talks, and the Studio Museum in Harlem, and felt encouraged by her presence and her storytelling through quilting. “Tar Beach” guided me into the possibilities of joy through girl’s play and family life. I will always treasure the moments we had and short conversations about my life in photography and her appreciation of women in the arts. I found a place because of her love of motherhood, fashion, and advocacy. Thank you, Faith. CT

(1) Eleanor Flomenhaft, “Interviewing Faith Ringgold/A Contemporary Heroine,” in Eleanor Flomenhaft, Faith Ringgold: A 25 Year Survey (Hempstead, NY: Fine Arts Museum of Long Island, 1990), pgs. 14-15

FIND MORE about Faith Ringgold on her website


ANNIE LEIBOVITZ, Faith Ringgold and Michele Faith Wallace, Englewood, New Jersey, 2023. | © Annie Leibovitz

BOOKSHELF
“Faith Ringgold: American People” was published on the occasion of the New Museum exhibition of the same name. The volume examines the entire career of Faith Ringgold. Another recent volume, “Faith Ringgold: Politics/Power,” published Kirsten Weiss, showcases the artist’s most potent and profound political works. “Faith Ringgold” is published to document the survey exhibition at Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Md. The volume is an updated and expanded version of the catalog published in 2020 to accompany the show’s presentation at Serpentine Galleries in London. In 2018, the Museum of Modern Art published “Faith Ringgold: Die,” a book dedicated to “American People Series #20: Die,” Ringgold’s monumental 1967 painting now in the museum’s collection. Ringgold’s early activism is documented in Susan E. Cahan’s book, “Mounting Frustration: The Art Museum in the Age of Black Power.” For children, “The Met Faith Ringgold: Narrating the World in Pattern and Color (What the Artist Saw),” is published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Children’s books authored and illustrated by Ringgold include “Tar Beach,” “Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky,” and “Harlem Renaissance Party,” among many others.

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In Memoriam: Artists, Curators, and Friends Remember Faith Ringgold as a 'Great Artist,' 'Fearless Activist,' and 'Blessing to All of Us' - Culture Type (2024)
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