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Political artist Faith Ringgold

Source: The Washington Post / Getty

The renowned artist and Harlem, New York, native Faith Ringgold, who blazed a trail for Black women artists for decades, has passed away.

On Saturday (April 13), the iconic artist Faith Ringgold, whose work as a multimedia artist and author left indelible impacts on other Black artists and museums, passed away at her home in Englewood, New Jersey, after a bout of failing health, according to her daughter Barbara Wallace. Ringgold was 93 years old. The news of her passing was first reported by her assistant, Grace Matthews.

Ms. Ringgold’s artwork is a fixture in many museums and institutions around the world including the Guggenheim Museum, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the American Craft Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. Her artwork, delved from her own experiences and inspiration from Tibetan quilt art, stood forth as highly personal and riveting.

Ringgold became known for her “story quilts” which conveyed the depth of Black lives and particularly the joys and the strife of Black women. “I think of quilts as the classic art form of Black people in America,” she said in an interview in 2005. “When African slaves came to America, they couldn’t do their sculpture anymore. They were divorced from their religion. So they would take scraps of fabric and make them into coverlets for the master and for themselves.”

She was born in Harlem, New York, in 1930 as the daughter of a seamstress and dress designer – the two would go on to collaborate on her future works. Ringgold taught art in the New York public school system while launching her career as a painter. She also fought for inclusion in museums for Black and women artists beginning in 1968. “I became a feminist out of disgust for the manner in which women were marginalized in the art world,” she said to the New York Times in 2019, adding: “I began to incorporate this perspective into my work, with a particular focus on Black women as slaves and their sexual exploitation.”

Ringgold also created several public works, including the “Flying Home: Harlem Heroes and Heroines” mosaic murals found in the 125th Street subway station in her native Harlem. She also became a children’s book author and would be the recipient of numerous awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Guggenheim fellowship in addition to honorary doctorates.