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Ringgold, Faith 1930-

Ringgold, Faith 1930-

PERSONAL:

Born October 8, 1930, in New York, NY; daughter of Andrew Louis (a sanitation worker) and Willi (a dressmaker and designer) Jones; married Robert Earl Wallace (a jazz pianist), November 1, 1950 (divorced, 1956); married Burdette Ringgold (an automobile company employee), May 19, 1962; children: (first marriage) Barbara, Michele. Ethnicity: "African American." Education: City College of the City University of New York, B.S., 1955, M.S., 1959. Religion: Protestant.

ADDRESSES:

Agent—Marie Brown Associates, 625 Broadway, Room 902, New York, NY 10012. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Teacher of art in public schools in New York City, 1955-73; University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, professor of art, 1984—. Painter, mixed media sculptor, performance artist, and writer; lecturer or performance artist at universities, and museums, including Purdue University, 1977, University of Massachusetts, 1980, Rutgers University, 1981, Occidental College, 1984, Long Island University, 1986, Mills College, 1987, Museum of Modern Art, 1988, Baltimore Museum of Art, 1988, De Pauw University, 1989, University of West Florida, 1989, San Diego Museum, 1990, Washington and Lee University, 1991, Museum of African American Art, 1991, and Atlantic Center for the Arts, 1992. Exhibitions: Art work featured in solo shows at Spectrum Gallery, New York, NY, 1967, 1970, Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, 1987, 1989, 1992, in touring exhibition "Faith Ringgold: A Twenty-Five-Year Survey," curated by Fine Arts Museum of Long Island, 1990-93, and elsewhere; art work represented in museums and galleries, including Boston Museum of Fine Art, Chase Manhattan Bank Collection, Clark Museum, High Museum of Atlanta, Newark Museum, Philip Morris collection, Guggenheim Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Studio Museum of Harlem, and various locations in Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Travel grant for Africa, American Association of University Women, 1976; grants from National Endowment for the Arts, 1978, for sculpture, and 1989, for painting; honorary D.F.A., Moore College of Art, 1986, College of Wooster, 1987, Massachusetts College of Art, 1991, City College of the City University of New York, 1991, and Brockport State University, 1992; Guggenheim fellowship, 1987; grants from New York Foundation for the Arts, 1988, and Henry Clews Foundation (for France), 1990; Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, Social Responsibilities Round Table, American Library Association, and Caldecott Honor Book Award, American Library Association, both 1992, for Tar Beach; Jane Addams Children's Book Award, 1993, for Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad in the Sky.

WRITINGS:

SELF-ILLUSTRATED CHILDREN'S BOOKS

Tar Beach, Crown (New York, NY), 1991.

Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad in the Sky, Crown (New York, NY), 1992.

Dinner at Aunt Connie's House, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1993.

My Dream of Martin Luther King, Crown (New York, NY), 1996.

Bonjour, Lonnie, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1996.

The Invisible Princess, Crown (New York, NY), 1998.

Counting to Tar Beach, Crown (New York, NY), 1999.

If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks, Simon & Schuster Books for Young People, (New York, NY), 1999.

Cassie's Colorful Day, Crown (New York, NY), 1999.

Cassie's Word Quilt, Knopf (New York, NY), 2002.

OTHER

(With Linda Freeman and Nancy Roucher) Talking to Faith Ringgold, Crown (New York, NY), 1995.

We Flew over the Bridge: The Memoirs of Faith Ringgold, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1995.

Dancing at the Louvre: Faith Ringgold's French Collection and Other Story Quilts, introduction by Richard J. Powell, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1998.

(With Curlee Raven Holton) Faith Ringgold: A View from the Studio, Bunker Hill Pub (Boston, MA), 2004.

(Illustrator) O Holy Night: Christmas with the Boys Choir of Harlem, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.

(Illustrator) Zora Neale Hurston, The Three Witches, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.

(Illustrator) Gwendolyn Brooks, Bronzeville Boys and Girls, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2007.

Art work represented in catalogues, including Faith Ringgold: Twenty Years of Painting, Sculpture, and Performance, 1963-1983, Studio Museum in Harlem, 1984; Faith Ringgold: Painting, Sculpture, Performance, Art Museum, College of Wooster, 1985; and Faith Ringgold: A Twenty-Five-Year Survey, Fine Arts Museum of Long Island, 1990. Contributor to Confirmation: An Anthology of African American Women, edited by Amiri Baraka and Amina Baraka, Morrow (New York, NY), 1983. Contributor to periodicals, including Artpaper, Arts, Heresies: Feminist Publication on Arts and Politics, Feminist Art Journal, Women's Art Journal, and Women's Artists News.

SIDELIGHTS:

Faith Ringgold is an artist and author whose works reflect her African-American heritage and often promote the importance of dreams. She creates in a variety of media, ranging from painting and sculpture to performance art. Yet she is probably best known for her "story quilts," intricately designed pieces that combine elements of her past, present, and future. More recently, Ringgold has emerged as a storyteller of note with the publication of several self-illustrated books for children. Janice M. Alberghene observed in Twentieth-Century Children's Writers: "Few artists combine painting, quiltmaking, and storytelling to create their works of art. When such an artist then adapts her work to create picture books for children, the result is both visually arresting and thematically nuanced. Faith Ringgold's books in this genre, Tar Beach and Dinner at Aunt Connie's House, together with Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad in the Sky, an original work for children, draw upon family tradition, autobiography, and history to portray inspiring African-American heroines, both real and imagined."

Ringgold attributes her artistic leanings to her somewhat unconventional childhood. Born in New York City during the Depression, she suffered from asthma as a child and often had to stay home from school. While convalescing, Ringgold listened to jazz bands on the radio and indulged her interest in drawing. In addition, her mother regularly took her to museums, and her father entertained her with social outings and stories.

After graduating from high school, Ringgold studied art at the City College of the City University of New York. There she was taught to copy the works of artists such as Paul Cezanne and Edgar Degas. Eager for more knowledge of and contact with African American art and artists, she undertook her own studies and developed a deep appreciation for the field.

Before she could begin her own career as an artist, however, Ringgold married a jazz pianist and had two children. The marriage soon collapsed, and Ringgold continued with her education. After graduating in 1955, she began teaching in New York City's public schools. She taught for several years, then took her family to Europe to see the great works of art that she had once studied. Upon returning to the United States, Ringgold began promoting her own work across the country. These works—mostly paintings on African-American themes—reflected European techniques. But as the civil rights movement gained momentum during the 1960s, Ringgold began adopting African and African-American styles. In addition, she devoted herself increasingly to African-American causes.

Although she has worked in sculpture and in painting on canvas, Ringgold has won her greatest acclaim as an artist with her painted "story quilts" on which she relates her experiences as an African-American woman. She began framing her paintings on fabric in the early 1970s after discovering that Tibetans had practiced such artwork since the fourteenth century. In 1980, Ringgold made her first quilt and added writing to the borders of these paintings, which then became known as "story quilts." Such works as "Flag Story Quilt," "Slave Rape Story," and "Street Story Quilt" brought Ringgold greater recognition as an important and innovative artist. Her work is now part of the permanent collections at institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Boston Museum of Fine Art, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Among Ringgold's works is the "Women on the Bridge" series of story quilts. Included in this series is the 1988 quilt "Tar Beach," which features a child, Cassie, talking and fantasizing while lying on the tarpaper roof of a building in Harlem during the 1930s. An editor at Crown Books saw a poster of "Tar Beach" and contracted with Ringgold for a children's book based on the quilt. Ringgold then created a series of paintings depicting scenes such as the heroine of Tar Beach flying over the George Washington Bridge. Upon its publication in 1991, Tar Beach won praise as an impressive and inspiring children's book. Rosellen Brown, writing in the New York Times Book Review, described Ringgold's art as "richly colored, sophisticated versions of what a child herself might paint" and concluded that "there's an air of triumph … in Ms. Ringgold's vision."

Ringgold followed Tar Beach with Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad in the Sky. It features Cassie, the heroine of Tar Beach, and her brother, Be Be, as they magically encounter Harriet Tubman and trace their ancestors' flight from slavery via the Underground Railroad. Enola G. Aird observed in the New York Times Book Review that "Ringgold's illustrations here are rich with meaning."

In her subsequent children's books, Ringgold has continued to focus on African-American history. In Dinner at Aunt Connie's House, a young girl visits her aunt, an artist whose walls are lined with her paintings of important African American women. Ringgold's vivid illustrations depict these women recalling their struggles and triumphs. The Harlem Renaissance and the relocation of many African Americans to Paris are the subjects of the "highly unconventional story" of Bonjour, Lonnie, according to Susan Dove Lempke in Booklist. When the protagonist of this "fantastical, sweeping picture book" embarks on a quest to find loved ones, he roams throughout Paris and speaks to spirits who teach him about his "mixed racial heritage and, more broadly, black Americans' contributions to the arts," recounted a writer for Publishers Weekly.

In My Dream of Martin Luther King, Ringgold tells the story of the civil rights activist's life. The "innovative and stirring" story, said a Publishers Weekly reviewer, uses the framework of the narrator's own dreams, in which a young and old Dr. King appears, to "share … a powerful message: ‘EVERY GOOD THING STARTS WITH A DREAM.’" According to Horn Book contributor Ellen Fader, the "message becomes more powerful and accessible with repeated readings." Booklist contributor Ilene Cooper thought "the fantasy framework overshadows the soul-stirring facts" but nevertheless concluded that the book's "intensity … will affect readers."

In The Invisible Princess, Ringgold again mixes fantasy with historical fact, creating what a writer for Publishers Weekly referred to as "an evocative, if mystifying, picture book." Once again, however, the "great presence and mythic proportions" of Ringgold's paintings prove especially striking.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Volume 19, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1996.

Children's Literature Review, Volume 30, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1993.

Gouma-Peterson, Thalia, Faith Ringgold Change: Printed Story Quilts, Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, 1989.

Ringgold, Faith, We Flew over the Bridge: The Memoirs of Faith Ringgold, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1995.

Ringgold, Faith, Linda Freeman, and Nancy Roucher, Talking to Faith Ringgold, Crown (New York, NY), 1995.

Turner, Robyn Montana, Faith Ringgold, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1993.

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

PERIODICALS

American Visions, February, 1999, Terrance Pitts, review of Dancing at the Louvre: Faith Ringgold's French Collection and Other Story Quilts, p. 30.

Booklist, September 1, 1995, Hazel Rochman, review of We Flew over the Bridge: The Memoirs of Faith Ringgold, p. 26; February 15, 1996, Ilene Cooper, review of My Dream of Martin Luther King, p. 1024; October 1, 1996, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Bonjour, Lonnie, p. 359; December 15, 1996, review of We Flew over the Bridge, p. 717.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March, 1991, review of Tar Beach, pp. 175-176; December, 1992, review of Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad in the Sky, p. 121.

Five Owls, March, 1991, review of Tar Beach, p. 75; November, 1994, review of Tar Beach, p. 31; September, 1995, review of Tar Beach, p. 21.

Horn Book, May-June, 1991, Nancy Vasilakis, review of Tar Beach, p. 322; May-June, 1996, Ellen Fader, review of My Dream of Martin Luther King, p. 351.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 1995, review of We Flew over the Bridge, p. 1261; August 1, 1996, review of Bonjour, Lonnie, p. 1158.

Library Journal, September 1, 1995, Margarete Gross, review of We Flew over the Bridge, p. 173; November 1, 1995, review of We Flew over the Bridge, p. 78.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, February 25, 1996, review of My Dream of Martin Luther King, p. 11.

Newsweek, September 9, 1991, review of Tar Beach, pp. 64-65.

New York Times Book Review, February 24, 1991, Rosellen Brown, review of Tar Beach, p. 30; February 21, 1993, Enola G. Aird, review of Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad in the Sky, p. 22; February 11, 1996, review of My Dream of Martin Luther King, p. 25; February 2, 1997, review of Bonjour, Lonnie, p. 18.

Publishers Weekly, February 15, 1991, review of Tar Beach, pp. 61-62; August 16, 1993, review of Dinner at Aunt Connie's House, p. 104; October 16, 1995, review of We Flew over the Bridge, p. 51; November 13, 1995, review of Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad in the Sky, p. 63; January 1, 1996, review of My Dream of Martin Luther King, p. 70; September 2, 1996, review of Bonjour, Lonnie, p. 129; January 13, 1997, review of Tar Beach, p. 77; November 23, 1998, review of The Invisible Princess, p. 67.

School Arts, May, 1989, Pamela Bray, "Faith Ringgold: Artist-Storyteller," pp. 23-26.

School Library Journal, December, 1991, review of Tar Beach, p. 31; October, 1993, Carol Jones Collins, review of Dinner at Aunt Connie's House, p. 110; February, 1996, Martha Rosen, review of My Dream of Martin Luther King, p. 97; July, 1996, review of Tar Beach, p. 31; January, 1997, Louise L. Sherman, review of Bonjour, Lonnie, p. 89.

Village Voice Literary Supplement, April 1, 1991, review of Tar Beach, p. 25.

ONLINE

Faith Ringgold.com Web site,http://www.faithringgold.com (February 10, 2007).

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