Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Faith Ringgold comes to Benedict College

 (Above: Faith Ringgold in front of her art quilt at Benedict College.)

My calendar was marked for months and the evening finally came!  Last night Faith Ringgold came to Benedict College for an informal chat moderated by Wendell Brown, associate professor and Ponder Gallery director.  It was enchanting.

 (Above:  Michelle Faith Wallace and her mother, Faith Ringgold signing autographs after the presentation.)

A natural born story teller, Faith spun reflections of her childhood, her early art career, and significant life experiences into subtly profound advice for everyone.  I was most struck by the positive attitude she retained while persevering in the face of difficult obstacles.  She never gave up ... and she seemed to do this with a confident smile.  It is little wonder why she is adored.  Her daughter, Michelle Faith Wallace, is also a celebrity.  She often added to her mother's recollections ... which was great, especially since the acoustic in the large chapel are horrible.  


The entire audience seemed to line up after the talk ... just to shake her hand and pay a compliment.  There were many lucky students in the crowd, and I feel certain that last night will become a highlight memory in their personal histories.  I know I learned plenty, especially about that positive attitude when under intensive pressure and opposition.

It took a while for all the hand-shaking before Faith Ringgold got to the gallery.  Once there, it was almost difficult to get her to pose for photos.  She was much more interested in looking at the other work accompanying her piece.  With art quilts on the wall, Faith Ringgold seemed almost oblivious to her own fame and the attention so many wanted to heap on her. 

The work on display was a continuation of an earlier exhibition called The Ancestor Project.  It started in 2007 whena Penny Dell from the National Association of Women Artists (NAMA) asked Faith to exhibit in the organization's New York City gallery.  Faith invited several art quilters to join her, making work in response to a story her wrote called "The Children Forgot to Play".  

(Above:  I wish this selfie was better ... but it was hard to get Faith Ringgold to stand still!  She's very, very active, especially around art!)

This is Faith's story:
An international Save The Children Meeting was held today in New York City. A woman from the Congo Region in Africa and a man from Scandinavia shared the stage to explain that their children had adopted a sedentary lifestyle and had forgotten how to play and that something must be done or life as we know it will cease. The crowd roared with unbridled enthusiasm. Toy stores, playgrounds, amusement parks and schools all over the world have shut down. Children have taken to their beds, like old people, complaining of headaches, backaches, muscle pains, dizziness and refused to move without a wheelchair. A man just back from the war in the Middle East said “They need the help of our ancestors, they would have the children and all of us laughing in no time. They had love and hope. All we have is hatred violence and war.”

All the quilts included this response:
One day the ancestors from all over the world came to the children in their dreams, dancing and singing songs of joy, love, understanding, forgiveness, hope and peace. They had heard that our children had forgotten to play and had taken to their beds to escape a world filled with; hunger, pain, ignorance, rioting, shootings, violence and war. Religious, racial, ethnic, sexual and gender hatred of anyone different was rampant.

The children all over the world were inspired to rise up from their beds to join the Ancestors in their song and dance for a better world. The children sang,

           We are young but we are many
           Filled with love not hate for any

When the children from all over the world closed their eyes to dream their ancestors now awaited the children’s dreams of a happier life.

(Above:  Wendell Brown with Faith Ringgold and several art quilting friends who drove up from Charleston.)

Reading this story, the response, and seeing the art quilts on display with Faith Ringgold in the room was an amazing experience.  It left little doubt as to why so many people love her, including me!


FreeDragon said...

She is one of my favorite artists, and probably the first artist I discovered whose medium was quilts! Wish I could have been there!

Unknown said...

i came to find her in a second hand book store and bought an address book with all her quilts! i totally love the history and beautiful quilts in this. Such an honor to have this in my library!

Pam Frazier said...

As a teacher of elementary children these words have struck my heart. What a beautiful message to share in a quilt.

Art MB Billings said...

Thanks for sharing !!!!