The Artist’s Way: Faith Ringgold, Artist

In this special feature, T photographed and interviewed 34 artists from various disciplines about 24 hours in their creative lives.

Article by Lovia Gyarkye

Faith RinggoldRinggold, 91, photographed at her studio in Englewood, New Jersey, on Feb 22, 2022. Photography by Shikeith.

I started printmaking when I was in high school, and it’s remained a part of my process ever since. It’s always been very challenging, but I’ve never limited myself to one technique. I’ve made work by etching, woodblock, lithography and silk-screen. It’s a labour-intensive and technical process, but it’s also collaborative. Early on, I collaborated with my mother, Willi Posey Jones, who was a fashion designer, to create quilts and soft sculptures. In the 1980s, I worked with the master printmaker Bob Blackburn on a series of abstractions, which I made into quilts.

In the 1970s, there was a trend among artists not to sign their work. I think they had a strange idea that because they were so famous and their art was so recognised, they didn’t need to sign it. I knew that would lead to problems: a lot of people’s works were lost. I didn’t embrace that. In fact, I created a piece called “Ego Painting” (1969) where my name was the only design. It was a statement against that movement. I’ve always signed everything I create. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with wanting people to know that I made a piece.

In my earlier days, I’d rise by 6am and be in the studio all day. I’d take a lunch break and then go back to work. My practice involves acknowledging the techniques of artists who came before me and using them in my own work. I look to the past, reflect on it and then make art about it. But I have to be inspired to do my work, and I find inspiration in the present: people, places and what’s going on around me. What was I reflecting on all these years? The world — how it is and how it might be. I’m worried and yet I’m also hopeful because it’s my world, and I want the best for it. Sometimes, I don’t see it happening, but I’m hoping that things will be better.

I’m on sabbatical right now. I have a much more relaxed schedule. My husband passed away in February 2020, and it’s been a time of reflection and listening rather than doing. This has been a very strange time for me because I’m not accustomed to not working. My schedule right now mostly involves looking over what I’ve made. I’ve created a lot of work and am happy that I can now sit back and enjoy the response. When I see my work from all the different series and media assembled together, I feel a great deal of satisfaction that I was able to produce so much and that I had the freedom to find my own voice, against all odds. It’s deeply gratifying — I hope my story can be an inspiration for all artists.

This is an extract from an article that appears in print in our seventh edition, Page 76 of T Australia with the headline: “The Artist’s Way”