Showtime: Washington

Faith Ringgold’s controversial art at D.C. museum


Associated Press

Wearing gold-sequined Uggs, a bright smile and flawless brown skin that belies her 82 years, Faith Ringgold explains her “confrontational art” — vivid paintings whose themes of race, gender, class and civil rights were so intense that for years, no one would buy them.

“I didn’t want people to be able to look, and look away, because a lot of people do that with art,” Ringgold said. “I want them to look and see. I want to grab their eyes and hold them, because this is America.”

Look away they did. And they walked away. So Ringgold tucked the paintings out of public view, where they stayed for more than 40 years.

Now, Ringgold’s early works are enjoying a revival. American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Paintings of the 1960s is on display at the National Museum of Women in the Arts until Nov. 10. The exhibit includes 49 paintings from her “American People” and “Black Light” series of the 1960s and 1970s, along with earlier works and political posters created for activist Angela Davis and for efforts in support of the Black Panthers and the 1971 Attica prison riot.

“I’m very happy and very pleased that this work is getting another chance to be seen and heard 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.”

A Harlem native best known for reviving the popularity of African-American story quilts 30 years ago, Ringgold said she created the paintings in response to the civil rights and feminist movements. Ringgold was actively involved in both; she championed displaying artwork by blacks and women, and protested outside the Whitney Museum and Museum of Modern Art in New York in the 1960s and ’70s.

Paintings from the “American People” series are vibrant and colorful, drawing influences from pop art and traditional African artwork, and depicting a variety of races — along with how they interact with each other in many of the pieces.

Ringgold’s mural The Flag is Bleeding depicts a white man, white woman and black man linking arms and standing before an American flag splattered with blood, because of race riots common during that time.

The other series in the exhibit, “Black Light,” further explores race, even celebrating the beauty of blacks, and incorporates texts in some artwork. Ringgold said it shows the “the darkened skin tones of black people and the magical ways in which black is presented in art.”

These paintings include Big Black with an abstract face similar to an African mask and Party Time, a split-screen ode to black dance and culture.

•  National Museum of Women in the Arts: 1250 New York Ave. NW, Washington D.C.; 202-783-5000; Admission $10 ($8 students and 65+; 18 and under are free). American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Paintings of the 1960s is on display until Nov. 10.

Read more Travel stories from the Miami Herald

This mural is a collaboration between New Zealand artist Tanja Jade and Australia artist Dabs Myla, on the wall and alleyway of a car dealership in Kakaako, in Honolulu.


    Street art is the draw in Honolulu’s Kakaako

    Honolulu is famous for gold-sand beaches and big waves. But the city’s warehouse district, called Kakaako, is famous for a different sort of attraction. You won’t find kitschy Hawaiian souvenir shops or hordes of tourists here, but you will find a thriving urban arts scene, with colorful street murals so big they stretch across walls and sometimes entire sides of buildings.

A scene from Las Fallas festival in Valencia, Spain.


    Lessons learned abroad: studying in Seville

    Things don’t start to feel real until you drag your two empty suitcases into your bedroom and start to pack for your semester abroad. That’s when you realize your life for the next six months will have to weigh less than you do.

  • The travel troubleshooter

    What happened to the repair records for my damaged rental car?

    Q: I recently rented a car from Europcar in Brussels. I declined the collision damage waiver (CDW) provided by Europcar in favor of the CDW on my Capital One World MasterCard.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category