We Flew over the Bridge: The Memoirs of Faith Ringgold

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In We Flew over the Bridge, one of the country’s preeminent African American artists—and award-winning children’s book authors—shares the fascinating story of her life. Faith Ringgold’s artworks—startling “story quilts,” politically charged paintings, and more—hang in the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and other major museums around the world, as well as in the private collections of Maya Angelou, Bill Cosby, and Oprah Winfrey. Her children’s books, including the Caldecott Honor Book Tar Beach, have sold hundreds of thousands of copies. But Ringgold’s path to success has not been easy. In this gorgeously illustrated memoir, she looks back and shares the story of her struggles, growth, and triumphs. Ringgold recollects how she had to surmount a wall of prejudices as she worked to refine her artistic vision and raise a family. At the same time, the story she tells is one of warm family memories and sustaining friendships, community involvement, and hope for the future.

In a lavishly illustrated and inspiring book, one of the country's preeminent African-American artists--Caldecott-winner Faith Ringgold--shares the fascinating story of her life. 101 photos. 40 color illustrations.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Bridging is the major motif of Ringgold’s life. . . . She is a bridge between the Harlem Renaissance and the civil rights era. She is a bridge between her mother’s applied art of fashion design and her own fine art of painting and story quilts. She is a bridge between the black power movement and the women’s movement. And she is a bridge between the abstract art that dominated the ‘60s and the issue-oriented art that connected with viewers’ hearts—and lives.”—Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer

“Faith Ringgold has already won my heart as an artist, as a woman, as an African American, and now with her entry into the world of autobiography (where I dwell), she has taken my heart again. She writes so beautifully.”—Maya Angelou

“Faith Ringgold has created a rich and highly informative work not only of her own life as an American in general but as an African American in particular. These memoirs are a part of American history—of what it means to be an artist, a writer, and a philosopher in our society.”—Jacob Lawrence

“Faith Ringgold’s exuberant and original art has made her one of America’s more important artists and a feminist heroine. Now her wonderfully honest memoirs will resonate with all political and creative women who are still fighting the battles Ringgold has won.”—Lucy Lippard, author of The Pink Glass Swan: Selected Essays on Feminist Art

“In words that are as direct, honest, full of color and life as her paintings, Ringgold gives each reader the greatest gift of all—courage to be one’s own unique and universal self.”—Gloria Steinem

“The story of Ringgold’s triumph—achieved through sheer determination, savvy, and self-conviction—is both accessible and inspiring.”—Lowery Stokes Sims, executive director, the Studio Museum in Harlem

Joyce Owens Anderson

“Ringgold provides juicy autobiographical stories, supplemented with personal photographs as well as ample illustrations and descriptions of her work. It is a memoir every artist should read. . . . The book is informative, forthright, and fun, and is a great teaching tool for both emerging and established artists.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Contemporary artist and children's book author Ringgold (Tar Beach) chronicles her efforts as a black woman, born in 1930s Harlem, in fighting sexism and racism to make her mark in the world. Her socially conscious paintings (The Flag Is Bleeding, 1967; Die, 1967), story quilts (Who's Afraid of Aunt Jemima? 1983) and various sculptures, dolls, masks and live performances have all received favorable review attention. The artist has also enjoyed a long and varied teaching career. Unfortunately, this portrait is filled with contradictions that often undermine Ringgold's sincerity and prevent her from establishing an emotional bond with the reader. Though she lists her activist stance in support of rights and opportunities for African Americans and, more broadly, for all women, her narratives fail to convey the passion of her described convictions. Ringgold stresses the importance of ``family'' and ``values,'' but her unconventional marriage, living and child-rearing arrangements do not reflect her good intentions. The end result reads like the sanitized diary of a self-absorbed woman. (Nov.)
Library Journal
This lively and delightfully written autobiography is set against a background of cultural and political upheaval. Ringgold's struggle to establish herself as a black artist and her need to define the meaning of a "woman's art" are the major themes found throughout this bookindeed, in all her projects. A talented painter, she is also known for her work in soft sculpture, textiles, masks, performance art, and writing children's books. Ringgold is represented in many public and private collections, ranging from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and Chicago's Harold Washington Library Center to Brooklyn's Crown Heights Public School 22. This book is well illustrated with family photos as well as examples of the artist's enormous output. Recommended for most public and art libraries and those with a special focus on feminist and African American studies.Margarete Gross, Chicago P.L.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822335641
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 3/28/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 7.44 (w) x 8.76 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Meet the Author

Faith Ringgold was born in Harlem in 1930. She began painting more than forty years ago, and has exhibited in museums in the United States, Europe, South America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. In addition to Tar Beach, the children’s books she has written and illustrated include Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky, If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks, and My Dream of Martin Luther King. Ringgold has received more than seventy-five awards, fellowships, citations, and honors, including seventeen honorary doctorates. She lives in Englewood, New Jersey.

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Table of Contents

Preface xi



Part I: Harlem Born and Bred

1. From the Cradle to the Classroom in the 1930s 3

2. Growing Up on Sugar Hill in the 1940s 25

Part II: Men, Marriage, and Motherhood

3. Men and Marriage in the 1950s and 1960s 39

4. My Mother Was Perfect, or So She Said 67

5. Parental Politics: My Daughters and Me 81

Color Plates 97

Part III: Making Art, Making Waves, and Making Money

6. A European Trip Ends with a Death in the Family 131

7. The 1960s: Is There a Black Art? 143

8. The End of the 1960s: Out of the Studio and into the Streets 165

9. The 1970s: Is There a Women's Art? 173

10. Teaching Art: Those Who Can Should 217

11. We Flew over the Bridge: Performance Art, Story Quilts, and Tar Beach 237

Appendix: Matisse's Chapel 273

Faith Ringgold Chronology 275

Public and Private Collections 283

Index 285

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