National Museum of Women in the Arts
Faith Ringgold
October 08 1930 - present
Photograph of Faith Ringgold, by Grace Matthews, courtesy of the photographer
Place of Birth:
New York
Phonetic Spelling:
fayth RING-gold
Minority status:
Work Type/Media:
Drawings and prints, Painting, Performance Art , Sculpture, Textiles and clothing
Artistic Role(s):
Illustrator, Mixed Media Artist , Painter, Performance Artist, Poster Artist, Printmaker, Quilt Maker, Sculptor, Sewer, Doll Maker, Mask Maker
Feminist Art
Artist's Biography:
Faith Ringgold is primarily known for her painted story quilts, but she is also a writer, teacher, and activist devoted to altering the perceptions of women and minorities. Born in Harlem in 1930, Ringgold received both her bachelor’s and master’s degree from City College of the City University of New York. Trained as a painter, Ringgold’s work before the 1960s consisted of landscapes and flowers in an Impressionist style.

During the 1960s, Ringgold became increasingly involved in the Civil Rights Movement and ushered in a change in her artistic style. From 1963 to 1967 Ringgold created her first mature body of work, the American People series, a group of twenty oil paintings. These paintings consist of highly stylized figures in bold, flat colors with a thick black outline. Influenced by James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, Ringgold worked from an iconography of Pop culture, infusing her figures with political meaning associated with black-white relations in the United States.

Ringgold was also an active member of the feminist movement. She stated, “I became a feminist because I wanted to help my daughters, other women, and myself aspire to something more than a place behind a good man.”¹ She co-founded a number of organizations that successfully protested the underrepresentation of women and minorities in exhibitions. Most notable are Women Students and Artists for Black Art Liberation (WSABL), which Ringgold organized with her daughter, Michele Wallace, and the Ad Hoc Women Artists’ Guild, which Ringgold organized with feminists Poppy Johnson, Lucy Lippard, and Brenda Miller.

Throughout the 1970s Ringgold began incorporating the African crafts of beading and maskmaking into her art and combining these elements into original performances that dealt with various social and political issues. But it was during the 1980s that Ringgold started to create the story quilts for which she is best known. Asked to construct a quilt for The Artist and the Quilt (1980), an exhibition that brought together eighteen women artists that usually worked in high art, Ringgold made Echoes of Harlem, in collaboration with her mother, Willi Dosey. For this quilt, Ringgold painted the faces of people she had known growing up in Harlem on individual pieces of fabric, which were then sewn together by her mother. Drawn to this medium that fused together her family’s traditions of story-telling and quiltmaking, Ringgold began making multiple quilt series that blend intricate stories such as her five quilt series Bitter Nest (1988). Each quilt is narrated by women from diverse backgrounds with distinct points of view incorporating African-American culture, family, sexuality, and feminism into the narrative.

Ringgold is also an award-winning author and illustrator of children’s books. Her first book, Tar Beach (1991) won the Coretta Scott King Award for illustration and was the Caldecott Honor Book winner. Ringgold is Professor of Art at the University of California, San Diego as well as the recipient of many prestigious awards including more than fifteen honorary doctorate degrees. She lives and works in La Jolla, CA and Englewood, NJ.

¹Faith Ringgold, We Flew Over the Bridge: The Memoirs of Faith Ringgold, (Boston: Little, Brown, 1995) 162.

Other Occupation(s):
Activist, Educator, Lecturer, Professor, Teacher, Writer
Place(s) of Residence:
La Jolla
Place(s) of Activity:
Where Trained/Schools:
The City College of New York, New York, NY, USA (1950-1959)
Related Visual Artists:
daughter of and collaborated with Willi Posey student of Robert Gwathmey student of Yasuo Kuniyoshi friend of Jeannine Petit collaborated with Curlee Raven Holton collaborated with Poppy Johnson collaborated with Tom Lloyd collaborated with Brenda Miller collaborated with Charlotte Robinson colleague of Mary Beth Edelson influenced by Jacob Lawrence influenced by Pablo Picasso
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Lifetime Achievement Award, Women’s Caucus for Art, New York, NY, USA (1994) Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, DC, USA (1978, 1993) Fellowship, The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, New York, NY, USA (1987)
Earliest exhibition:
The Art of the American Negro, Harlem Cultural Council, New York, NY, USA (1966)
NMWA exhibition(s):
Presswork: The Art of Women Printmakers
Through Sisters' Eyes: Children's Books Illustrated by African American Women Artists
WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution
Artist retrospective(s):
Faith Ringgold: A Twenty-Five Year Survey, Fine Arts Museum of Long Island, Hempstead, NY, USA (1990) Faith Ringgold: Twenty Years of Painting, Sculpture, and Performance 1963-1983 , The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY, USA (1984) Retrospective, University Art Gallery, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA (1973)