February 21, 2023
Faith Ringgold Was Wilson’s Artist In Residence In 1976
Through paintings, traditional masks, and quilts, artist Faith Ringgold explored the Civil Rights Movement and the fight for women’s rights through her art and incorporated the rich history of African culture into her work.
Ringgold was born in Harlem, New York City in 1930. Surrounded by a mosaic of different heritages, she was raised in an environment full of cultural celebration and expression. Her mother was a fashion designer who taught her to sew as a young girl, a skill she later used in her famous quilts.
Though her early works are mostly paintings, in the 1970s, she began to experiment with sculptures, textile creations, and performance art. The earliest of these was “Buba and Beba, Wake and Resurrection of the Bicentennial Negro,” a performace piece with song, dance, and sculpture elements in which students of Wilson College participated in 1976. It presented a story of liberation and restoration of an African couple, portrayed by her sculptures, after their deaths.
In the 1980s, she began making a series of painted story quilts, which are among her best-known works today. The trips she took to West Africa greatly influenced her style and the messages within her art, as she began to experiment with traditionally African-American forms of quilting. In all of her work, she retained a feminist perspective and condemned racism and xenophobia.
Her quilts inspired her to write and illustrate nearly 20 children’s books as well. Ringgold has received over 80 awards and 23 honorary doctorates during her lifetime. She continues to create art today, at the age of 91.
During her year as Wilson's Artist in Residence, she is most known for her interactive performance art that allowed students to engage with the work by donning traditional African masks created by Ringgold and her mother. Pictured here are Wilson students surrounded by Ringgold’s sculptures that she crafted during her time at the college.
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