As an artist, Faith Ringgold has always worked to tell her story.
She created bold, provocative paintings during the 1960s, directly responding to the Civil Rights and feminist movements. Her explorations of race and gender, which are on view in American People, Black Light, were often unsettling to viewers because of the way they confronted issues of their time.
She was quoted about American People, Black Light in the Grio, saying that she was “very pleased that this work is getting another chance to be seen . . . and that the American people are getting another chance to take a look at themselves,” Ringgold said in an interview. “Most of that work I still own because people just didn’t want to look at it. They didn’t want to see it.”
The Washington Post described NMWA’s exhibition as “provoking visitors with paintings of enormous size, arresting intimacy and unsettling intensity. [Her paintings] are marked by large, emoting eyes, her signature U-shaped line descending from the eyebrows around the nose, and ‘high-keyed’ blues, reds, and greens, colors that dominate not with brightness, but with depth. It is a style she calls super-realism—one that demands that viewers engage.”
Throughout her career, Ringgold has worked to tell the stories of “American People.” She was quoted in the Washingtonian talking about her experiences in the 1960s: “It was a vibrant period—there was a lot of writing, talking about expressing the experience of African-American people,” Ringgold says. “I felt, as I still feel, that artists have the job of documenting their times.”
—Elizabeth Lynch is the editor at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.