Smithsonian Craft Show Names Narrative Quilt Artist Faith Ringgold as 2017 Visionary Artist
Special Exhibit at the National Building Museum to Showcase Nine of Faith Ringgold’s Quilts
Faith Ringgold is the recipient of the Smithsonian Craft Show’s 2017 Visionary Award, which recognizes an artist who has achieved distinction in the field of sculptural arts and design, whose works are in major museums and who has demonstrated innovation, creativity, artistry and vision in his or her respective medium.
Ringgold is best known for her painted narrative quilts which were inspired by Buddhist tankas—painted and brocaded fabric pictures—and her mother’s work as a fashion designer. In the early 1970s Ringgold abandoned traditional oils for paintings in acrylic on unstretched canvas and fabric borders, and she has painted her signature story quilts ever since. Her work focuses on civil rights and gender equality, African American life and culture, family joys and hardships, and the education of children.
One of her best known quilts is “Tar Beach #2” (1990–1992), which depicts Ringgold’s recollections of growing up in Harlem during the summer when the tar roof of a family’s apartment building served as a place for family picnics, star gazing and good times. Ringgold won a Caldecott Honor and the Coretta Scott King Award for her book Tar Beach, which is based on her story quilt of the same name.
An exhibit of nine narrative quilts by Faith Ringgold will go on view at the National Building Museum April 27–May 7. The exhibit is jointly presented by the Smithsonian Women’s Committee and the National Building Museum and is on loan from the ACA Galleries in New York City. The opening day of the exhibit coincides with the beginning of the 2017 Smithsonian Craft Show, which runs April 27–30.
The quilts in the exhibit are representative of Ringgold’s major themes, which include: “Coming to Jones Road,” which depicts the path of the famous Underground Railroad to freedom; “Jazz Stories,” which portrays the famous musicians Ringgold listened to while growing up in Harlem; and “Declaration of Freedom and Independence,” which highlights social justice and freedom for all.