Faith Ringgold, pioneering Black quilt artist and author, dies at 93 | Entertainment

Faith Ringgold, pioneering Black quilt artist and author, dies at 93

Artist Faith Ringgold poses for a portrait in front of a painted self-portrait at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, June 19, 2013. Ringgold, an award-winning author and artist who broke down barriers for Black female, died Friday, April 12 at her home in Englewood, N.J. She was 93.

NEW YORK — Faith Ringgold, an award-winning author and artist who broke down barriers for Black female artists and became famous for her richly colored and detailed quilts combining painting, textiles and storytelling, has died. She was 93.

The artist’s assistant, Grace Matthews, told The Associated Press that Ringgold died Friday night at her home in Englewood, New Jersey. Matthews said Ringgold had been in failing health.

Ringgold’s highly personal works of art can be found in private and public collections around the country and beyond, from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American Art to New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Atlanta’s High Museum of Fine Art.

But her rise to prominence as a Black artist wasn’t easy in an art world dominated by white males and in a political cultural where Black men were the leading voices for civil rights. A founder in 1971 of the Where We At artists collective for Black women, Ringgold became a social activist, frequently protesting the lack of representation of Black and female artists in American museums.

“I became a feminist out of disgust for the manner in which women were marginalized in the art world,” she told The New York Times in 2019. “I began to incorporate this perspective into my work, with a particular focus on Black women as slaves and their sexual exploitation.”

While her works often deal with issues of race and gender, their folk-like style is vibrant, optimistic and lighthearted and often reminiscent of her warm memories of her life in Harlem.

Ringgold introduced quilting into her work in the 1970s after seeing brocaded Tibetan paintings called thangkas. They inspired her to create patchwork fabric borders, or frames, with handwritten narrative around her canvas acrylic paintings. For her 1982 story quilt, “Who’s Afraid of Aunt Jemina,” Ringgold confronted the struggles of women by undermining the Black “mammy” stereotype and telling the story of a successful African American businesswoman called Jemima Blakey.

Among her socially conscious works is a three-panel “9/11 Peace Story Quilt” that Ringgold designed and constructed in collaboration with New York City students for the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Each of the panels contains 12 squares with pictures and words that address the question “what will you do for peace?” It was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Born in Harlem in 1930, Ringgold was the daughter of a seamstress and dress designer with whom she collaborated often. She attended City College of New York where she earned bachelor and master’s degrees in art. She was a professor of art at the University of California in San Diego from 1987 until 2002.

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