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 Collection
Identifier: MC 1213

Faith Ringgold (1930- ) Collection

Dates

  • 1967-1999

Scope and Content Note

The Faith Ringgold Collection is 17 cubic feet in size and spans the decades from 1967 to 1999, with the bulk of the material dating from the 1980s and 1990s. The collection is contained in 15 records center cartons, 1 index card box, 1 newspaper box, and 4 magazine boxes. It includes selected books and newspaper articles by or about the artist, catalogs, and promotional materials from solo, performance, and group shows, lectures, and some correspondence related to her work. The types of materials included in the collection are flyers, postcards, slides, posters, letters, books, magazines, newspapers, catalog booklets, and photocopied items. Topics that are covered in this collection include women, daughters, women performance artists, urban women, museums and women, African American women, African American women, Civil rights, African American women authors, African American women artists, children's authors, civil rights movement in art, Quilts, juvenile literature, and Soft sculpture.

The collection's contents are organized by decade and within each decade grouped according to material type. The collection is organized according to categories in Ringgold's curriculum vitae and the term "Miscellany" has been used to refer to binders that contain more than one topic from both 1998 CVs. Items representing Ringgold's October 1998 CV constitute the collection's first series, entitled Curriculum Vitae (CV) & Documentation October 1998, 1970-1998, and include catalogs, and publications by Ringgold. Most of the series' contents dating from the 1990s consists of correspondence and invitations related to solo and group exhibits, lectures, performances, awards, commissions, panels, tv/radio appearances, public/private commissions, artist in residence, publications about Ringgold, and consultancies. Of particular interest is information related to a 1997 copyright infringement case that resulted from Ringgold's "Church Picnic Story Quilt" being shown on television without her permission.

The first series' items dating from the 1980s primarily record information related to Ringgold's tv and radio appearances as well as her lectures, panels, public/private commissions, and teaching. Some binders reflect additional topics, such as a 1988 Texas v Gregory Lee Johnson writ of certiorari to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The writ is related to Ringgold's participation in the 1970 "The People's Flag Show," which included artwork that used the American flag to protest American oppression and repression. The series also includes material related to her work at the University of California San Diego.

In addition the first series includes materials from the 1970s such as documents related to Ringgold's solo and group shows, performance art, and publications. This section also contains items related to the 1968 protest at the Whitney Museum in response to the exclusion of African American artists by that institution and the Museum of Modern Art. Ringgold was a participant in the demonstration. One of the articles published about her appeared in a the German publication Kritische berichte Zeitschrift fur Kunst und Kulturwissenschaften Feministische Interventionen and was titled "Der unverantwortliche blick kritische anmerkungen zur kunstgeschichte."

The second series, documenting to Ringgold's August 1998 CV, is composed of items relating to solo and group exhibitions, performances, illustrated slide lectures, conferences, programs, panels, television and radio appearances, her experiences as a teacher and an artist in residence, publications, consultancies, committees, juries, curatorial duties, awards, and public and private commissions. Among the documents are booklets regarding her shows and rough sketches along with published copies of Ringgold's books and correspondence related to them. Items of interest include catalogs from group shows, in which her work was included, in Egypt in the 1990s and in Japan in the 1980s.

The third series, Additional Curriculum Vitae 1990-1992, consists of two bound CVs created for the Bernice Steinbaum Gallery in 1990 and 1992 and includes records regarding Ringgold's solo and group, collections, selected performances, recent lectures, and visiting artist engagements. The bibliographies of both CVs include separate sections for catalogs, selected books by Faith Ringgold, selected articles, television and video, audiotapes, films, slides and visual aids, and calendars. The 1992 CV also has an honor and awards section. In the 1990 CV, there is a separate section in which Ringgold's curatorial positions are listed and copies of articles that relate to different sections of the CV are included.

The collection's materials are in some cases repetitive since there are a number of duplicate materials; however, each duplicate copy was assigned a different number. It is possible that each set of numbers is meant to refer to one of the curriculum vitae. Some items are labeled with a roman numeral identifying the subject type and the number of the item in the CV October 1998. There are at least two sets of roman numeral/arabic number combinations, one of which matches the October 1998 CV. Other items, such as catalogs and publications by Ringgold are listed as separate subjects in the August 1998 CV. The third set of numbers consists of Arabic numbers and does not seem to correspond to the October 1998 CV. Many of the items have labels on the back cover that provide the number and name of the material type, the page number upon which Ringgold's work is found, and the year. Other items have page markers or a page number written in pen on the front cover to mark the page upon which Ringgold or her artwork is mentioned or reviewed. Videotapes were placed in a separate box.

Extent

17 Cubic Feet (15 records center cartons, 1 index card box, 1 newspaper box and 4 magazine boxes)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

The Faith Ringgold Collection reflects many aspects of its creator's experiences as a teacher, artist, consultant, and curator. It consists primarily of documentation of Ringgold's August 1998 curriculum vitae (CV) and includes a selection of publications by and about the artist plus catalogs and promotional materials from solo, performance, and group exhibitions. Documents reflecting Ringgold's lectures, work-related correspondence, participation in conferences, programs, panels, television and radio appearances, committees, and juries appear alongside records regarding awards Ringgold received and the public and private commissions she undertook. Among the topics reflected in this collection are women, daughters, women performance artists, urban women, museums and women, African American women, African American women, Civil rights, African American women authors, African American women artists, children's authors, civil rights movement in art, Quilts, juvenile literature, and Soft sculpture. The Faith Ringgold Collection is composed of three series: Curriculum Vitae & Documentation October 1998, 1970-1998, Curriculum Vitae & Documentation August 1998, 1980s-1998, and Additional Curriculum Vitae 1990-1992.

Biographical Sketch

Childhood

Faith Willi Jones (Ringgold) was born on October 8, 1930 to Andrew Louis Jones, Sr. (d1969) and Willi Posey Jones (d1981). Prior to Faith's birth, the Jones' family had lost their son Ralph at the age of three months from pneumonia. In Harlem, Ringgold lived with her parents, her older siblings Andrew, six years her senior, (d1961) and Barbara, three years her senior (d 1982) in a 146th Street four-room tenement apartment. As children, Barbara loved to play "school" with Faith, while Andrew loved to entertain his siblings with stories. As she was growing up, different members of her extended family would come visit or stay while they looked for work. To support the family, her father worked as a sanitation worker. Ringgold's parents separated when she was still very young, but she continued to have contact with her father who would visit with her on his days off. Ringgold's mother worked as a dressmaker and designer. Posey was very active in the fashion world. Having attended the Fashion Institute of Technology, she belonged to the Association of Negro Business and Professional Women's Club and the National Association of Fashion and Accessory Designers (NAFAD). When her asthma forced her to stay home from school, Ringgold used the time to draw and listen to jazz. Posey encouraged her interest in art by taking her to museums and the theater. During the 1940s, her mother worked in a defense plant sewing "Eisenhower jackets" for the army and worked out of their home as a fashion designer. The additional income from these two jobs allowed the family to afford to move into "Sugar Hill," a more affluent Harlem neighborhood. In 1942, her parents officially divorced and her mother changed her name back to Willi Posey. As a young adult, Andrew was involved in a gang and suffered from a drug addiction. Barbara, a public school home economics teacher, married in 1950 and had the marriage annulled in 1956, when her husband was unable to overcome his drug problems.

Adulthood

In 1950, Ringgold eloped with jazz musician Robert Earl Wallace, whom she called Earl. In 1952, she had two children, Michele (January 4) (an author), and Barbara (December 15) from her marriage to Wallace. Because of Wallace's drug addiction, Ringgold separated from him in 1954, and later divorced him before he died in 1966. Since women were not allowed to major in art at the School of Liberal Arts at the City College of New York, Ringgold attended the School of Education. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in fine art and education and a master's degree in art from City College in 1955 and 1959 respectively. In the 1950s, Ringgold also helped her mother give fashion shows. After graduating, Ringgold taught art in various New York public schools. She taught at junior high school P. S. 136, an all-girls school, from 1955 to 1956. From 1956 to 1964, Ringgold taught in John Jay High School, Junior High School 113, and Walton High School in the Bronx. From 1965 to 1968, she taught at a Harlem elementary school that participated in the "more effective school" program (MES). Her final public school position was at Brandeis High School Annex, which she left in 1973 to focus on her artwork full time. Because it allowed her to have a flexible schedule, Ringgold was able to still work as a lecturer at Wagner and Bank Street Colleges. During that time, she also taught art during the summer at an intermediate school. As a teacher, Ringgold observed the community protests over racism within the schools and the lack of African American teachers and principals. To resolve these issues, protesters wanted the community to have more control over the schools. In 1961, Ringgold traveled with her mother and two daughters to Europe to visit museums. The trip ended early when her brother died. On May 19, 1962, she married Burdette "Birdie" Ringgold.

Art and Protest 1960s-1980s

According to Ringgold, "What I do is very political. Many women wouldn't dare do anything soft because they don't want what they're doing to be called women's art, sewing or craft. Early on my work was also very political, in the sense that people understand political art: that has to do with black and white people and the sixties."(1) In her early artwork, Ringgold used the European techniques that she was taught in school to paint African American related themes. In the 1960s, Ringgold shifted to using African and African American techniques. "I mean you use all your things. I have the advantage of using the American experience, such as it is, from Europe, which I was trained in. And I have the advantage of my own cultural classical form, which is African. I'm very clear on that, I don't have any problems in that area, but many black people do."(2) In 1966, Ringgold had her first gallery show at the Black Arts Theater in Harlem and also joined the Spectrum Gallery. She completed and displayed her first series called "The American People Series," in 1967. Ringgold frequently used patterns and hidden text in her work. In 1968, she protested against the New York Whitney Museum and the Museum of Modern Art's exclusion of African American artists. Ringgold began her "Black Light" series, in which different dark shades of paint were used to create the twelve paintings in the series, in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

In 1970, Ringgold participated in "The People's Flag Show" in which artists used the American flag in their artwork to protest American oppression and repression. As an organizer of the show, Ringgold and a few other participants were arrested and fined for "desecration of the American flag."(3) Ringgold began using posters as a medium for her artwork in the 1970s. With an award from the Creative Arts Public Service program, Ringgold painted "For the Women's House," which was displayed in the Women's House of Detention on Riker's Island. During this time, she also painted the "Political Landscapes" series in watercolor and, influenced by Chinese style artwork work, chose to include writings in her paintings. She included quotations from famous African American women for her "Feminist Landscape", part of the "Political Landscape" series. Ringgold, along with the Women Students and Artists for Black American Liberation (WSABAL), protested the exclusion of women and African Americans from the 1970 Liberated Venice Biennale protesting the Cambodian war. In response, the WSABAL held its own show, which was forced to close because of security issues.

In 1972, she made a second trip to Europe, started her Feminist Series, and participated in an art show in Hamburg, Germany. Her "Slave Rape" series, which was completed in 1973, consisted of sixteen paintings about African women before and after they were forced into slavery and centered on the themes of help, fear, run, and fight. In the same year, Ringgold began making masks, including the eleven masks in the "Witch Mask" series. She expanded on her mask artwork, first making costumes to go with the masks and then making foam bodies in addition to the costumes. Ringgold found her inspiration for the masks, which she based on people from her childhood and adult life, in the artwork of the Dan People in Liberia. Ringgold also constructed life size figures for her "Family of Women" couples series. She made thirty-one masks in all. The "Windows of the Weddings" series, which would later be used as backdrops in one of her performance pieces, depicted the artist's idealized vision of her daughters' weddings. Using an award from the American Association of University Professors, Ringgold traveled to Nigeria and Ghana in 1976. In 1977, she visited Nigeria again for the "2nd World Black and African Festival of the Arts and Culture" which included artists, writers, dancers, and musicians from fifty-eight countries. The organizer of the exhibition considered her masks as crafts and placed them where they were not easily seen. In response, Ringgold withdrew from the festival. That same year, she started writing her autobiography and worked on her freestanding sculpture series "Women on a Pedestal."

In 1980, Ringgold developed her use of "tankas," material used to frame artwork, into making "story quilts," in collaboration with her mother Willi Posey. Posey's work, like Ringgold's, was influenced by the African and European styles that she observed on her trips to Africa and Europe in the 1960s. In her "story quilts," Ringgold paints themes related to women and African Americans on material. "Tar Beach" is an example of one of her "story quilts" and was turned into a children's book. Other collaborative projects included the "Family of Women" mask series, the 1980s quilt "Echoes of Harlem," and their final project "International Dolls Collection and the Ringgold Doll Kits (Sew Real)".

In addition to her quilt work, Ringgold began making performance pieces and becoming more involved in the Women's Caucus for Art and other organizations. One of her performance pieces "The Wake and Resurrection of the Bicentennial Negro," was about African Americans redefining and freeing themselves. Other performance pieces include "Being My Own Woman," "The Bitter Nest," and "Change 3." Ringgold also founded Coast to Coast, a network of women minority artists in 1987, and served as the Women's Caucus for the Art vice president for minority affairs.

Exhibitions

Ringgold's artwork has been displayed at the New York Spectrum Gallery, the Boston Museum of Fine Art, Newark Museum, Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and other locations in the United States and around the world. From 1990 to 1993, her work toured the United States as "Faith Ringgold: A Twenty-Five Year Survey" through the Fine Arts Museum of Long Island. Ringgold has performed at educational institutions and museums including Purdue University (1977), University of Massachusetts (1980), Rutgers University Douglass College (1981), and the Baltimore Museum of Art (1988). Some of the locations at which she has given lectures include Mills College (1987), the Museum of Modern Art (1988), the Museum of African American Art (1991), and the Atlantic Center for the Arts (1992).

Books

Ringgold has written and illustrated many children's books including Tar Beach (1991), Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad in the Sky (1992), Dinner at Aunt Connie's House (1993), My Dream of Martin Luther King (1996), Bonjour, Lonnie (1996), The Invisible Princess (1998), If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks (1999), Cassie's Word Quilt (2004), and What Will You Do for Peace? Impact of 9/11 on New York Youth (2004). Ringgold also adapted two of her books into board books: Counting to Tar Beach: A Tar Beach Board Book (1996) and Cassie's Colorful Day: A Tar Beach Board Book (1999). She has written three books for adults about her life and work: Talking to Faith Ringgold (1995), We Flew Over the Bridge: The Memoirs of Faith Ringgold (1995), and Dancing at the Louvre: Faith Ringgold's French Collection and Other Story Quilts (1998). Ringgold described her writings saying, "these children's books seek to explain to children some of the hard facts of slavery and racial prejudice, issues that are difficult but crucial to their education. But my books are even more about children having dreams and instilling in them a belief that they can change things."(4) She has contributed articles to various feminist and art publications including Artpaper, Art, Heresies: A Feminist Publication on Arts and Politics, the Feminist Art Journal, Women's Art Journal, and Women's Artists News.

Awards

Throughout her career, Ringgold has received numerous awards for her work. Her artwork has been supported by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). She has been awarded honorary doctorates by Moore College of Art (1986), College of Wooster (1987), Massachusetts College of Art (1991), and other institutions. She is also the recipient of awards from the Henry Clews Foundation (1990), the New York Foundation for the Arts (1998), and a Guggenheim fellowship (1987). Ringgold has also been recognized for her children's books. Ringgold's Tar Beach was awarded the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award from the American Library Association (ALA) Social Responsibilities Round Table and Caldecott Honor Book Award from ALA (1992). For Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad in the Sky, she received the Jane Addams Children's Book Award (1993). In 1994, Ringgold received the Women's Caucus for Art (WCA) Honor Award.

Later Career

Ringgold taught art at the University of California, San Diego from 1984 until her retirement in 2002. She currently divides her time between New York, and La Jolla, California. She also has a studio in Englewood, New Jersey. Her daughter Michele works is an author and has assisted her with some of her projects, while Barbara, the mother of three children, teaches in an elementary school. Michele's published works include Black Popular Culture (1993), Invisibility Blues: From Pop to Theory, Haymarket Series (1990), Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman, (1980) and numerous articles.

Sources

"Faith Ringgold." Contemporary Women Authors.

"Faith Ringgold." Children's Literature Review, 30. Detroit, Mich.: Gale, 1993.

Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, 4th edition. Detroit: St. James Press, 1995

Miller, Lynn F. "Faith Ringgold." In Lives and Works, Talks With Women Artists. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1981

Munro, Eleanor. "Faith Ringgold." In Originals: American Women Artists. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1979.

Ringgold, Faith. "Faith Ringgold Website," 1997, updated 2003. Retrieved November 7, 2005 from http://www.faithringgold.com/ringgold/bio.htm

Ringgold, Faith. We Flew Over the Bridge: The Memoirs of Faith Ringgold. Boston: Little, Brown, and co., 1995

Wallace, Michele. "Michele Wallace Faculty Profile CUNY Graduate Center Ph. D. Program in English" Retrieved on November 7, 2005 from http://web.gc.cuny.edu/english/fac_mwallace.html

Notes

(1)Miller, 1981, p. 159 (2)Miller, 1981, p. 161 (3)Miller, 1981, p.172 (4)Ringgold, 1995, p. 261

Arrangement Note

The Faith Ringgold Collection is divided into three series

  1. Curriculum Vitae & Documentation October 1998, 1970-1998
  2. Curriculum Vitae & Documentation August 1998, 1980s-1998
  3. Additional Curriculum Vitae, 1990-1992

The first series, Curriculum Vitae (CV) & Documentation October 1998, 1970-1998, is arranged according to decade and then by subject.

The second, Curriculum Vitae (CV) & Documentation August 1998, 1980s-1998, is arranged chronologically and grouped by material type.

The final series, Additional Curriculum Vitae (CV) 1990-1992, is arranged chronologically.

Related Material

Mary H. Dana Women Artists Series Collection, 1971-[ongoing], FC 1, Margery Somers Foster Center, Mabel Smith Douglass Library, Rutgers University Libraries. See Inventory to the Mary H. Dana Women Artists Series Collection, 1971-[ongoing]

General

(1)Miller, 1981, p. 159

General

(2)Miller, 1981, p. 161

General

(3)Miller, 1981, p.172

General

(4)Ringgold, 1995, p. 261

General

(1)Miller, 1981, p. 159

General

(2)Miller, 1981, p. 161

General

(3)Miller, 1981, p.172

General

(4)Ringgold, 1995, p. 261

Title
Guide to the Faith Ringgold (1930-) Collection 1967-1999 MC 1213
Status
Unverified Full Draft
Author
Amanda Winter
Date
December 2005
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.