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The Social Aspects Affecting Faith Ringgold’s Art


In the words of a great artist, “You can’t sit around and wait for somebody to say who you are. You need to write it and paint it and do it” (Ringgold). Faith Ringgold is one of the most well-known representatives of the modern African American creative community. Her narrative quilts that have gained worldwide fame since the last century are studied by people of different generations, which allows the artist to convey her ideas to the general public. The societal aspects affecting Ringgold’s art play an important role in her work, and the artist’s personal convictions, including her feminist and anti-racist views, have become significant milestones in her many years of artistic activities. Her cultural background is a significant factor in the nature and message of her work as well. Ringgold used a combination of personal, societal, and cultural influences in her lifetime as an inspiration for her art and framing a message which resounded within the African American community and the artistic world.

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Personal Factors

Despite the lightness and brightness of her scenic quilts, the plots of Ringgold’s works convey the essential aspects of her personal beliefs. According to Bailey, the artist has always demanded that her canvases be taken seriously since she creates them not only to surprise the public but also to raise important individual thoughts (49). In particular, the theme of sexism is conveyed in the artist’s work through vivid plots illustrating violence against women and their vulnerability in the patriarchal world. In addition, as the author notes, Ringgold is one of the initiators of the creation of a dedicated community for black women (Bailey 49). As a witness to the injustice shown to African American females, Ringgold focuses on the most pressing issues of bias she has faced throughout her life. The artist’s age allows speaking about her great life experience, and her personal background is a valuable aspect that prompts Ringgold to reflect on the topical themes of modern society.

Societal Factors

An opportunity to demonstrate the results of her work to a wider audience allows Ringgold to convey her worries and concerns about pressing social issues. Snelgrove and Gardner note that the artist’s social reality is one of the main tools for promoting public interest in the topics covered (51). The themes of equality relating to both gender and ethnic issues are conveyed through the prism of a variety of implications. On her narrative quilts, Ringgold shows her characters as “multidimensional people” and, as Snelgrove and Gardner remark, transforms stereotyped ideas into unique stories (51). In addition, the theme of racism is raised in the author’s works as one of the fundamental topics. Rosenblatt and Sims consider Ringgold’s approach to assessing inequality based on ethnicity and argue that the artist has always emphasized the importance of discussing this issue at the family level to eliminate misconceptions about the relationship of people in society (143). The desire to convey the importance of respecting the rights of each individual is a significant aspect of Ringgold’s art, and the theme of racism as an acute social phenomenon has always worried the artist.

Cultural Factors

Ringgold was a direct witness to the injustice suffered by ethnic minorities, in particular, black females. In this regard, according to Chang, the artist’s work is rich in stories that emphasize the cultural aspects of social interaction (148). The mid-20th century when Ringgold began her creative career was characterized by persistent social bias in relation to the rights of women. These trends have influenced the nature of the artist’s canvases and quilts and become the fundamental factors that determined the direction of her work. Each of the works with a specific plot reflects unique stories through which Ringgold conveys her experiences and interacts with the public. As Chang notes, the American society of the 20th century was full of conflicting sentiments regarding the manifestations of interaction among citizens. As a result, Ringgold has become one of the main figures in the transformation of the country’s cultural life.


In the end, Ringgold did not “sit around” but despite all the obstacles achieved artistic recognition and drew attention to numerous issues affecting the African American community. She once said, “I had something I was trying to say and sometimes the message is an easy transmission and sometimes it’s a difficult one but I love the power of saying it so I’m gonna do it whether it’s hard or easy” (Ringgold). The societal factors have become the dominant drivers that influenced Faith Ringgold’s work, but additional aspects, including personal experience and cultural trends, have also shaped the nature of her artistic style. The issues of inequality that black women experience are the theme of her narrative quilts. Moreover, anti-racist stories are a significant part of Ringgold’s rich artistic heritage. Due to the fact that the artist has witnessed all the injustices and prejudices experienced by social minorities, her work reflects an unequivocal message to society. The artist attracts attention to acute issues regarding the importance of respect for equality and everyone’s rights.

Works Cited

Bailey, Indira. “The (In) Visibility of Four Black Women Artists: Establishing a Support Network, Defining Obstacles, and Locating Self Through Art.” Visual Culture & Gender, vol. 12, 2017, pp. 48-57.

Chang, EunJung. “Investigating Race and Racism Through African American Art and Artists.” Journal of Cultural Research in Art Education, vol. 33, 2016, pp. 137-153.

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Ringgold, Faith. “Quilts – Faith Ringgold.” PBS, Oct. 2001, Web.

Rosenblatt, Paul C., and Cherie M. Collins Sims. “African American Autobiographer Accounts of Learning from Parents How to Deal with Racism.” Journal of African American Studies, vol. 20, no. 2, 2016, pp. 135-151.

Snelgrove, Shannon, and Laura Gardner. “Creating Narratives Through Art as Self-Definition for Black Women.” The Winthrop McNair Research Bulletin, vol. 2, no. 1, 2016, pp. 50-55.

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