Turning a symbol of domesticity, comfort and femininity into a tool of protest, power and change, Faith Ringgold forever changed the possibilities inherent in a quilt. For over 50 years the storyteller, activist, historian and artist has recorded her story in bold colors and bolder statements, refusing to dilute her experiences with race and gender inequality.
Since the 1960s Ringgold has made explicit the struggles and realities black American women faced every day through a series of paintings, posters and murals. Roberta Smith characterized Ringgold's work in the New York Times, stating: "Often made without white paint as a protest against racism, they combine aspects of Pop art and Social Realism while using geometric and biomorphic abstraction in symbolic ways."
These early works comprise the first portion of a powerful exhibition at New York's ACA Galleries, allowing Ringgold fans to observe the artist grapple and evolve through various media to reach the form she is most known for today -- her story quilts. Re-appropriating the traditionally domestic medium as a radical tool, Ringgold transforms feminine symbols in her textile pieces, weaving together vivid historical and personal accounts of being a woman.
In an interview with Oxford Art Online, Ringgold explained her decision to address activism in her art:
I am inspired by people who rise above adversity. Like most people, I am also inspired by people who are the best they can be. Although I love a beautiful vase of flowers, a sumptuous landscape or a sunset, I will not be moved to paint one of these without a meaningful personal reference that is also political.
"Faith Ringgold's America: Early Works And Story Quilts" will show until April 27, 2013 at ACA Galleries in New York. See some of Ringgold's powerful visual narratives in the slideshow below and let us know your thoughts.
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