Faith Ringgold’s painted story quilts at L’Elegance

Faith Ringgold's painted story quilts at the Upstairs Gallery at L'Elegance in Oak Bluffs. — Photo courtesy of L'Elegance Furnishings

Faith Ringgold’s opening reception and exhibit at L’Elegance this Saturday, Aug. 13, is a source of personal pride for Fred Collins, the owner of the Circuit Avenue home furnishings shop and upstairs gallery. He acquired her first story-telling quilt, “Who’s Afraid of Aunt Jemima,” in 1984 after seeing it on exhibit at the Studio Museum of Harlem.

Ms. Ringgold, a professor of art at the University of California in San Diego, is known for her painted story quilts, a combination of painting, quilting, and storytelling. Many are in the permanent collections of museums including the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Museum of Modern Art. She has shown her work in international exhibits, and received more than 75 awards, fellowships, citations and honors, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Fellowship for painting, the National Endowment for the Arts Awards, and numerous honorary doctorate degrees.

A successful children’s book writer, Ms. Ringgold has written and illustrated 11 children’s books. Her first book, “Tar Beach,” was a Caldecott Honor Book and winner of the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration in 1991. Her recent book, “Cassie’s Word Quilt,” is directed at preschool children, and books in progress include, “My Grandma’s Story Quilt,” and a book about the Harlem Renaissance Party.

Working with fabric is an important family tradition, beginning with her great, great-grandmother, a slave who made quilts for her masters.

Mindful of the black feminist experience, Ms. Ringgold draws on African and American folk traditions as well as modern art. Born in Harlem in 1930, she studied art at the City College of New York before becoming a public school teacher and a political activist in the late 1960s and ’70s.

Ms. Ringgold, who began as a painter, started making her narrative story quilts in the 1970s. Using acrylic paints on canvas, she creates images on quilted fabrics, and incorporates written text into her work that represents the themes most important to her: stories of her life, of African-American women and artists throughout history, and of racial and gender inequality. She is working on a series of jazz images.

A wife, mother, and grandmother, Ms. Ringgold expresses joy about her art that is conveyed in the work itself. Meet the artist this weekend.

Opening reception for Faith Ringgold on Saturday, Aug. 13, from 7 to 9 pm in the Upstairs Gallery at L’Elegance on Upper Circuit Avenue, Oak Bluffs.