FAITH RINGGOLD, “Black Light Series #11: US America Black,” 1969 (oil on canvas, 60 x 84 inches). | © 2024 Faith Ringgold / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Courtesy ACA Galleries, New York


ONE OF THE GIANTS has passed on. Faith Ringgold, (1930-2024), the extraordinary artist who made political paintings with an unvarnished view of America and story quilts that celebrate the multifaceted lives of women, and the cultures of Harlem and Paris, died on April 13 at her home in Englewood, N.J. She was 93. Ringgold’s death was confirmed to the New York Times by her daughter Barbara Wallace. The artists’s gallery, also shared the news in an email message.

Practicing for more than six decades, Ringgold did it all. She was an artist, activist, educator, curator, and author. Her artistic practice bridged fine art and craft, spanning painting, quilts, political posters, prints, soft sculpture, and performance. A masterful storyteller, her insightful works challenged institutions and art history, illuminated America’s racial ills, and explored the experiences of women and her own biography.

Ringgold fought to be seen and heard and for representation of Black artists and women artists in New York City museums, all the while following her own artistic path. Her activism has created opportunities for many, including the artist herself.

Over the past three decades, she worked exclusively with ACA Galleries in New York. “It has been an immense honor to work with Faith since 1995—a journey woven with boldness, passion, and profound respect for her transformative vision,” Dorian Bergen, president of ACA Galleries, said in a statement.

“Faith leaves behind an impactful legacy of activism and advocacy for diversity and inclusion that has left a lasting mark on the art world, inspiring countless others to use their voice as a tool for social change. We will miss her deeply, and remain committed to continuing this legacy by sharing her work, philosophies, and life with the world.”

BORN IN HARLEM, N.Y., Ringgold was in her early 30s when her studio practice began to evolve and she developed her first mature painting style. It was the early 1960s, a transformational political period when the Black Power movement centered Black men and the women’s movement focused on white women. Both social enterprises largely ignored the concerns of Black women, fueling her activism and her art.

“I have kind of forgotten the sharp feeling I used to get of being rejected and maybe it has to do with being left out so many times. Alright. Go ahead. Leave me out if you want. I’ll come in another door,” Ringgold told CBS in 2021.

The American People series (1963-1967) constituted her first political paintings. Inspired by the writings of James Baldwin and Amiri Baraka (then LeRoi Jones) the 20 paintings employ a style she called “super realism” and depict diverse subjects—men and women, Black and white—in a variety of scenarios that address tensions between the races.

Her Black Light series followed, from 1967 to 1969, featuring works defined by fields of color in tones of black, brown, red, gray, and blue. Experimenting with dark colors and adjacency, Ringgold created contrast and dimension and teased out light. One of her signatures—graphic text designed in geometric color fields—first appeared in the Black Light series (“Black Light Series #5: Black Art Poster,” 1969).

In the early 1970s, Ringgold began producing tankas, which are canvas paintings framed with fabric. In the same period, she ventured into political posters. Often originally made in a cut collage format and reproduced as prints, the posters were designed to champion and highlight a variety of issues, including advocating for the freedom of Angela Davis, and bringing attention to the horrific conditions in Attica, the maximum security prison in Upstate New York.

Nearly a decade later, she focused on quiltmaking. Now in the collection of the Studio Museum in Harlem, “Echoes of Harlem” (1980) was her first quilt, which she made in collaboration with her mother, Willi Posey, a fashion designer. The quilt features a mosaic of four different fabrics framing a grid of 30 faces representing the spectrum of life in Harlem.

“I have kind of forgotten the sharp feeling I used to get of being rejected and maybe it has to do with being left out so many times. Alright. Go ahead. Leave me out if you want. I’ll come in another door.” — Faith Ringgold


FAITH RINGGOLD, “The Bitter Nest #4 of 4: The Letter,” 1988 (acrylic on canvas, 94.5 x 84.5 inches / 240.03 x 214.63 cm). | Collection of Glenstone Museum. © 2024 Faith Ringgold / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Courtesy ACA Galleries, New York


In 1983, Ringgold created her first story quilt “Who’s Afraid of Aunt Jemima?” When others were denigrating her, Ringgold sought to de-emphasize her appearance and give her substance. (Nancy Green was the face of Aunt Jemima, a national pancake and syrup brand. Recruited in 1890, Green became the symbol of a stereotyped character. She was born into slavery in Kentucky in either 1834 or 1854, and died in Chicago in 1923.)

“She’s our feminist issue. I said people are yelling about Aunt Jemima and condemning her for being fat and Black and having a big nose and that’s, what is that? That’s nothing. Forget that. That isn’t, that’s not something that you’re supposed to condemn a person for,” Ringgold said in an oral history with the National Visionary Leadership Project. This is a woman. I’m gonna rewrite her life and I’m gonna give her a career, a family, and and talk about the important things in her life. Not the way she looks.”

Ringgold’s unique approach to the medium, painted pieced-fabric story quilts, many incorporating lengthy narratives directly on the works, became foundational to her practice and among her most celebrated creations. The artist devoted two complementary series of story quilts to a mother-daughter narrative that echoes her own path and aspirations. Ringgold was in France when she embarked on the series in 1990.

The French Collection follows the adventures of Willa Marie Simone who goes to Paris in the 1920s at the age of 16 to study art. She visits storied locales such as the Louvre, the Seine, Giverny, Arles, and Gertrude Stein’s salon, opens an artists cafe, gets married, and becomes a celebrated expatriate artist. The series references legendary artists and historical figures, including Josephine Baker, Manet, Matisse, Picasso, Van Gogh, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Madame C.J. Walker, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Romare Bearden, Aaron Douglas, Archibald Motley, and Emma Amos (in imagined scenes that collapse time across various eras).

Willa Marie’s daughter, Marlena Simone, is the protagonist in a subsequent series, The American Collection. She, in turn, gains her own renown in the U.S. art scene. It’s a brilliant body of work that tells an important and layered, multigenerational story designed to re-cast art history with women and African Americans.

“I started making quilts because I can write words on here, telling my story. Nobody can keep me from telling my story. I have that freedom and I will take it on the art,” Ringgold said in a video made by Glenstone Museum on the occasion of her 2021 exhibition at the Potomac, Md., museum.


FAITH RINGGOLD, “The Sunflowers Quilting Bee at Arles: The French Collection Part I, #4,” 1991 (acrylic on canvas with pieced fabric border, 74 x 80 inches). | © 2024 Faith Ringgold / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Courtesy ACA Galleries, New York


RINGGOLD EARNED B.S. AND M.A. degrees in visual art from the City College of New York in 1955 and 1959. She taught at several institutions, including the New York Public Schools, Pratt Institute, and the University of California, San Diego (1984-2002), where she retired as a Professor Emerita of Art.

In 1966, Ringgold joined Spectrum on 57th Street near the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). She was the first Black member of the cooperative gallery, where she had her first-ever solo exhibition in 1967.

The late 1960s and 70s was a pivotal period for Ringgold in terms of her political activism. She joined the Art Workers’ Coalition; co-founded the Women Students and Artists for Black Art Liberation with her daughter Michelle Wallace, a writer and scholar; and co-founded Where We At, a group for Black women artists, with Kay Brown and Dindga McCannon. In the process, she joined forces with fellow artists to protest the Whitney Museum of American Art and MoMA, decrying their lack of access and representation when it came to Black artists and women artists.

She participated in Festac ’77 in Lagos, Nigeria. A soft sculpture installation, “Atlanta Children” (1981) was made in response to the Atlanta child murders, the mysterious, harrowing crimes that occurred between 1979 and 1981. In 1984, the Studio Museum in Harlem presented a 20-year retrospective of Ringgold. The same year, she was a visiting artist at Robert Blackburn’s Printmaking Workshop in New York.

Ringgold has published 20 children’s books. Her first, “Tar Beach” (1991), was inspired by one of her most well-known story quilts. The narrative is a fantastical mix of fiction and autobiography that unfolds on a Harlem rooftop. Cassie Louise Lightfoot dreams of a life of freedom doing whatever she desires. She gets her wish when the stars swoop her up and she flies throughout the city. The award-winning book received numerous accolades, including a Coretta Scott King Award and Caldecott Honor.

In 2010, the traveling exhibition “American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Paintings of the 1960s” was organized by the Neuberger Museum of Art at SUNY Purchase. After becoming largely known for her story quilts, the exhibition brought to the fore Ringgold’s bold political paintings made at the dawn of her career in response to the civil rights and feminist movements. “American People, Black Light” traveled to additional venues: Spelman College Museum of Fine Art in Atlanta, Miami Art Museum (now the Pérez Art Museum Miami), and the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.


FAITH RINGGOLD, “The American People Series #18: The Flag is Bleeding,” 1967 (oil on canvas, 182.88 x 243.84 cm / 72 x 96 inches). | Collection of National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Gift of Glenstone Foundation and Patrons’ Permanent Fund, 2021.28.1 © 2024 Faith Ringgold / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Courtesy ACA Galleries, New York


OVER THE DECADES, Ringgold regularly presented her work in solo and group exhibitions in galleries and museums. Late in life, she received her greatest recognition with key institutional acquisitions, representation in landmark group shows, comprehensive monographic exhibitions at major museums in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and London, and lavishly illustrated publications with scholarly essays.

Ringgold was featured among her peers in a trio of traveling exhibitions: “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power,” which originated at the Tate Modern in London in 2017 before landing in the United States; “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85” (2017), organized by the Brooklyn Museum; and “Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today,” which opened at Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University in 2018, and traveled to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, France.

Major New York museums acquired her work, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and Brooklyn Museum, along with the Whitney Museum and MoMA, museums in front of which she once protested.

A compelling mix of art and politics, “American People Series #20: Die” (1967) was purchased by MoMA through ACA Galleries in 2016. The painting is currently on view. Shortly after the acquisition, it was displayed prominently on the fourth floor, near the entrance to the museum’s collection galleries.

“Die” reflects what was going on in American cities at the time. Countless riots were erupting in Black communities throughout the United States. Uprisings in Detroit and Newark, N.J., were among the most destructive. Despite civil rights strides made on the legal front, the racial violence was borne out of frustration with lived experience—racism, segregation, poverty, unemployment, and police mistreatment—during a period deemed the “Long Hot Summer.”


FAITH RINGGOLD, “American People Series #20: Die,” 1967 (oil on canvas, two panels, 72 x 144 inches /182.9 x 365.8 cm). | © Faith Ringgold / ARS, NY and DACS, London, courtesy ACA Galleries, New York


In response, Ringgold painted a large-scale, two-panel painting, a stunning depiction of the chaos. The composition features Black and white bodies—men, women, and children splayed across a sidewalk amid splashes of blood. MoMA made an audio guide for “Die.” In the recording, Ringgold explained her motivation for making the painting and the meaning embedded in the image.

“There was a lot of spontaneous rioting and fighting in the street and undocumented killings of African American people and great racism. It was amazing what was happening. Everybody knew. Everybody talked about it. But I would never see anything about it on television. Nothing. I became fascinated with the ability of art to document the time, place, and cultural identity of the artist. How could I as an African American woman artist document what was happening all around me?” Ringgold said.

In 2019, Serpentine Galleries in London organized Ringgold’s first solo institutional exhibition in Europe. About 70 works were on view. Versions of the show traveled to Bildmuseet in Umeå, Sweden, and Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Md.

In 1997, the New Museum in New York presented “Dancing at the Louvre,” featuring Ringgold’s The French Collection and The American Collection story quilt series. Twenty-five years later, “Faith Ringgold: American People,” the first full museum survey of the artist in her hometown and her most comprehensive exhibition to date, opened at the New Museum in 2022.

Her work covered Artforum and The New Yorker and she was profiled by CBS. Apollo, the London-based art magazine, declared Ringgold “Artist of the Year” in 2022. The same year, Time magazine named Ringgold among the 100 most influential people in the world.

In her Time tribute to Ringgold, Thelma Golden of the Studio Museum in Harlem said: “A Renaissance woman born in Harlem during its own Renaissance, Faith Ringgold has painted, sculpted, written, sewed, and incited change all her life. Her fundamental reinvention of narrative-based art, especially her panoptic elevation of the American craft tradition, has firmly established her as one of the great artists of our time.” CT


IMAGE: Top, at left, Artist Faith Ringgold. | © 2022 Faith Ringgold, Courtesy ACA Galleries, New York


FIND MORE about Faith Ringgold on her website


July 11, 2021: Similar to her art, Faith Ringgold is lively and insightful during her interview with correspondent Nancy Giles. | Video by CBS Sunday Morning


FAITH RINGGOLD, “American People Series #11: Three Men on a Fence,” 1964 (oil on canvas, 40 x 30 inches). | © 2024 Faith Ringgold / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Courtesy ACA Galleries, New York


FAITH RINGGOLD, “The American People Series #19: US Postage Commemorating the Advent of Black Power,” 1967 (oil on canvas, 72 x 96 inches). | © 2024 Faith Ringgold / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Courtesy ACA Galleries, New York


Faith Ringgold, accompanied by her daughter Michelle Wallace, walks through her 2021 exhibition, seeing decades of her work on display at Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Md. Ringgold reflects on specific works and speaks about having ideas and creating art as an avenue to freedom. | Video by Glenstone


“Faith Ringgold: American People” was published on the occasion of the New Museum exhibition of the same name. The volume examines the entire career of Faith Ringgold. With text contributions by an impressive slate of artists, curators and writers, including Diedrick Brackens, LeRonn Brooks, Julia Bryan-Wilson, Jordan Casteel, Bridget Cooks, Mark Godfrey, Lucy Lippard, Tschabalala Self, Michele Wallace, and Zoé Whitley, the catalog is promoted as “the most significant collection of scholarship” on Ringgold to date. Also recently published, “Faith Ringgold: Politics/Power” showcases the artist’s most potent and profound political works and “Faith Ringgold” is published to document the survey exhibition at Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Md. The volume is an updated and expanded version of the catalog published in 2020 to accompany the show’s presentation at Serpentine Galleries in London. In 2018, the Museum of Modern Art published a book dedicated to “American People Series #20: Die,” Ringgold’s monumental 1967 painting now in the museum’s collection. “Faith Ringgold: Die” is part of the museum’s One on One series. Ringgold’s early activism is documented in Susan E. Cahan’s book, “Mounting Frustration: The Art Museum in the Age of Black Power.” For children, “The Met Faith Ringgold: Narrating the World in Pattern and Color (What the Artist Saw),” is published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Children’s books authored by Ringgold include “Tar Beach,” “Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky,” and “Harlem Renaissance Party,” among many others.


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