The 1960s

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Michele in the 60s and the Early 70s

161-2-050270001rc400-12-0118721305-37-013171001R312-26-021671001R Poppy Johnson371-16-092371001R  AWC-Attica protest at MOMA371-14-092371001R Yvonne Rainer, Alice Neel -- AWC-Attica protest at MOMA
371-13-092371001R  AWC-Attica protest at MOMA371-10-092371001R  AWC-Attica protest at MOMA374-16-092371001R  AWC-Attica protest at MOMA374-14-092371001R  AWC-Attica protest at MOMA414-24-020472 Judson 3 Lottery Benefit for NYCLU at Leo Castelli Gallery--Kate Millett & Jon Hendricks415-25-020472 Judson 3 Lottery Benefit for NYCLU at Leo Castelli Gallery

Michele in the 60s, a gallery on Flickr.

I just wanted to pull together the images I could find of myself as part of Jan Van Raay's magnum opus on 60s and 70s protest in the art world and elsewhere. I was 19 in 1971. And I have very few pictures of myself at this age, and even fewer of me engaged in this very important moment in my life when atttendance at protest marches was an every day occurence for me. It was indeed my idea of a social life.

312-26-021671001R Poppy Johnson
371-16-092371001R AWC-Attica protest at MOMA
371-14-092371001R Yvonne Rainer, Alice Neel -- AWC-Attica protest at MOMA
371-13-092371001R AWC-Attica protest at MOMA
371-10-092371001R AWC-Attica protest at MOMA
374-16-092371001R AWC-Attica protest at MOMA
374-14-092371001R AWC-Attica protest at MOMA
414-24-020472 Judson 3 Lottery Benefit for NYCLU at Leo Castelli Gallery--Kate Millett & Jon Hendricks
415-25-020472 Judson 3 Lottery Benefit for NYCLU at Leo Castelli Gallery

374-16-092371001R AWC-Attica protest at MOMA

Everyone of the pictures i can find of myself in this extraordinary archive of photos of artists protests in the early 70s, I am in the background except this one. This is 1971 and my mother and I are locked in mutual gazes with Yvonne Rainier in front of the Museum of Modern Art protesting Rockefeller's involvement with the massacre at Attica Prison. He is also on the Board of MOMA. Thus the protest. My gaze is focused on my mother's gaze. She is trying to tell me something, something I perfectly understood at the time but can no longer remember. In front of other people, we always communicated with such looks. What made Jan Van Raay take this picture of me, I am not sure, but I think it had more to do with the presence of Faith and Yvonne, both of whom are in a lot of her pictures, and nothing to do with me at 19 years of age standing between them. I think it is very funny and telling that I am holding an umbrella. With my mother doing this impractical thing of calling for Rockefeller's impeachment in front of the citadel of high culture and modernism, and yet I have my umbrella because no doubt rain is predicted or threatens and I am a cautious practical person at heart, not at all the flaming radical my spirited mother has compelled me to be. Nonetheless I loved her so. The innocence of that look.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

Most Negroes cannot risk assuming that the humanity of white people is more real to them than their color.  And this leads, imperceptibly but inevitably, to a state of mind in which, having long ago learned to expect the worst, one finds it very easy to believe the worst.

James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time, The Dial Press New York 1963

This book is so deeply touching to read in December of 2011 after a semester of reviewing with my advanced literature class at the City College the life of Malcolm X as written by Afro-American historian Manning Marable.  In The Fire Next Time, Baldwin describes brilliantly the experience of being black in the urban North in precisely the moment in which Malcolm X had captured the imaginations of so many people.  I suppose reading his description of his first encounter with Elijah Mohammed in 1963 goes back to my earliest and dimmest comprehension of the Black Muslims.

My mother eagerly devoured The Fire Next Time when it first came out, and I first read it myself not too long after.  I wonder how much I understood at the age of 11?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hide Little Children by Faith RInggold

This painting was done by Faith in 1964, the year after we had begun school at New Lincoln in Harlem.  It is called Hide Little Children for many reasons I am sure.  Among them my mother's concern for our safety in the context of integration in the North.  When this painting emerged and she explained that it was about us and our white friends, it gave me a good feeling because I read its message as highly protective.  Our play and thus our relationships were hidden from view in an idyllic landscape, but as in William Blake's notion of childhood and innocence, it wasn't going to be possible to grow up, venture out and hold on to that innocence at the same time.  That was just about right.

The American People Series #15: Hide Little Children 1964 
(Oil on canvas) 36" x 32" Private Collection.

Elizabeth Sackler and Michele Wallace, Photo by Barbara Wallace

Photo by Barbara Wallace.  All rights reserved by Barbara Wallace 2009.

Michele talking to Elizabeth Sackler, founder of the Sackler Center for the Study of Feminist Art at recent party on Central Park South given by Judy Brodsky in anticipation of Faith's 50 Year Retrospective at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ in May 2009. Rutgers is also giving Faith her 21st Honorary Doctorate at their next graduation, where her childhood friend Sonny Rollins will also be honored. The Sackler Center for the Study of Feminist Art now provides a permanent home for Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party. This meticulous installation is well worth seeing by all who are interested in feminist art, even if you don't quite buy Chicago's historical narrative concerning the division of labor.  By the way, Sackler graduated from the New Lincoln School in the 1960s just a few years before me in 1969. 

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Early Sixties Paintings

Faith Ringgold, "The Tenement," Oil Painting 1960.  
All rights reserved copyright 1960 Faith Ringgold. 

   In the course of my life, I have written a lot about this painting by Faith Ringgold.  It is called The Tenement (1960) and it was deeply influenced by Pablo Picasso who was a very important artist in all of our lives.  Faith had every book ever written at that point about him.  She read them all and I read them all because I tried my best to read everything Faith read.  I was eight years old in 1960 but I didn't let that stop me.  I pretended I could read (and put my notes and scribbles in her books) until I could actually read.  Looking back on it I can't recall when it all began to make sense but I do know that the stories that were written about Picasso were always compelling.  The photographs of him in his many houses and in the South of France were even better.

   At some point it became extremely unfashionable among a certain set to acknowledge Picasso as important as an artist.  I wrote about the early influence of his work on Faith in "Modernism, Postmodernism and the Problem of the Visual," and Faith immortalized the same in The French Collection, most particularly in her "Picasso's Studio," but among others Picasso has been dropped from the discussion for a variety of reasons, none of them particularly relevant to his artistic value but then that's just my opinion.

   These are the reasons Picasso has been dropped from the discussion: he was extremely sexist and mean to women; he was a narcissist of epic proportions and not in a good way; he ripped off as much stuff from other artists as possible, first and most significantly in this case, African art and the entire continent of Africa. I personally love much of his work and don't think art should be judged by the relative saintliness of the artist.  More to the point, you can not possibly understand Faith's early work or any of her subsequent work without a strong familiarity with the life and career of Picasso.  When she says Modern Painting, she takes for granted that Picasso's work is a major part of that picture.  She also takes for granted the implicit and explicit value of West and Central African sculpture to Modern Painting, but that's another story for another day.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

60s Style--Barbara, Faith and Michele

     The 60s for us was all about style, although not so much about photographs. We're all wearing Afros so Black cultural nationalism is in its heyday.  For all three of us (our little immediate circle composed of Barbara Wallace, Faith Ringgold and Michele Wallace), I have very few photographs particularly in the late 60s.  Not sure why that is except that these were turbulent times and I, myself, as a teenager felt very unsettled.

By the time this photograph is taken for a magazine profile of Faith, (1968-1969), she is 38 and although still teaching full time in the public schools, she is also fully into the swing of her career as an artist and an activist in the black community and the art world.  Barbara is a junior in high school and I am a senior at the New Lincoln School (which would make me 16).  Not sure when it would have been that I  made my statement about not wanting to go to college  but it must have been around this time.  That jump suit made by my grandmother Mme. Willi Posey was my favorite thing to wear.  We are sitting on the livingroom couch at 345 West 145th Street in Harlem.  The couch is covered by those custom made plastic covers designed to protect the furniture.  It really does seem like yesterday in a sense.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mme. Willi Posey napping on the deck of the S.S. Liberte

Picture probably taken by Michele Wallace, 1961.

It is 1961. My grandmother (pictured here), my sister Barbara, my Mom Faith and I are on our way to France. Mme. Willi Posey, my grandmother, Momma Jones as I then called her, is napping in the comfortable sunlight on the deck of the S.S. Liberte on its last transatlantic voyage.
I just love love this picture. She is wearing her favorite sweater, her head tied up in her favorite sleeping scarf, totally relaxed, totally herself. Yet ready, at a moment's notice, to be of service. Or so I imagined. I loved the perfectly round shape of her head, her eyes, her nose, all perfection. She was 58 years old that summer.

American People #1: Between Friends

American People #1: Between Friends by Faith Ringgold (1963), 
Oil on Canvas, 40 x 24 inches.  All rights reserved.

 That summer of 1963 I took the girls to Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts.  We had been invited to spend the summer there on the estate of Dr. and Mrs. Goldsberry of Wooster . . . .
"That summer of 1963 was the beginning of my mature work.  I planned to paint five paintings in my new style, which I called “Super Realism.”  The idea was to make a statement in my art about the Civil Rights Movement and what was happening to black people in America at that time, and to make it super-real.   
Painting outdoors has its own problem, not the least of which is the insects that fly into the wet oil paint and get stuck there.  But I survived the insects and the sun, and produced the first of the twenty-odd paintings of my American People Series.
The first painting, Between Friends, depicting an uneasy meeting between a black and a white woman, was inspired by the women who came to weekday poker parties at the Goldsberry’s house while their husbands were in their offices in town.  The Goldsberrys were lifetime members of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and entertained an interracial group of high powered friends.  I thought the white women were simply representing their husbands, and I could sense a lot of distance between friendship and what these women were sharing. "
From WE FLEW OVER THE BRIDGE: THE MEMOIRS OF FAITH RINGGOLD, Duke University Press (originally published 1995) 2005 (144-45) 


American People #3: Neighbors by Faith Ringgold. Oil on canvas, 42 x 24 inches. 
All rights reserved.

"Neighbors" was about the not-so-neighborly greeting of three generations of a white family living next door to a black family who had just moved in.
From We Flew Over the Bridge:  The Memoirs of Faith Ringgold, Duke University Press (145) 

The Civil Rights Triangle

American People #4: The Civil Rights Triangle 1963, by Faith Ringgold. 
Oil on Canvas 36 by 42 inches.  All rights reserved. 

"The Civil Rights Triangle referred to the church as both the power structure for change and its association with the white male establishment—whick together made up the top structure of the Civil Rights Movement.  By the time I came home at the end of the summer, these paintings were finished, and I was planning to do many more in this series.  Now I knew where my art was going.  I had so many ideas that I barely had time to execute them."
Taken from We Flew Over the Bridge by Faith Ringgold, Duke UP 2004 (145)

Mr. Charlie

In the summer of 1965 I had heard that Harry Belafonte was interested in black artists and was collecting their work.  I went to his offices on West 57th Street where his secretary told me that his business manager, Sy Siegel, bought all of his paintings for him.  So I took several of my paintings from the American People Series to show to Mr. Siegel.  One was Mr. Charlie, a large grinning head of a patronizing white man. Another called The Cocktail Party was a social gathering with one black person.  The final canvas I brought was The American Dream, which presented a woman, half white, half black, showing off her huge diamond ring.  Mr. Siegel turned red.  He growled menacingly: "I don't know who these people are." Waving his hand at the paintings, he went on angrily.  "And I don't know what they're doing."  (He was looking at The In Crowd, a scene of white men piled in a power pyramid with black men on the bottom.)

American People #6: Mr. Charlie by Faith Ringgold,  
1964 Oil on Canvas, 33 by 18 inches.  All rights reserved.
I tried to explain the scene to him.  "You see the white man has his hand on this black man's mouth because he doesn't want him to speak out about the injustice in the black community.  We call him 'Uncle Tom,' and we call him"--pointing ot the grinning white face--"Mr. Charlie."
"Well, you wanted me to see them and I've seen them," Mr. Siegel thundered.  He turned and left the outer office, slamming the door in my face."
Faith Ringgold, from WE FLEW OVER THE BRIDGE: THE MEMOIRS OF FAITH RINGGOLD, Duke University Press 2005, (148-149)

The In Crowd

American People #8: The In Crowd by Faith Ringgold, 1964
Oil on Canvas, 48 x 26 inches.  All rights reserved.

"Nobody I knew seemed to have time just to talk about ideas or problems, except my mother.  She never got tired of listening.  I knew I worried her during those years, but she held on to me, and I to her."
 "Other older artists wrote my painting off as 'protest' art, sometimes even dismissing them as merely history painting or social realism.  They were mostly people who had been badly burned during the Communist scare in the fifties and now wanted to keep their noses and palettes clean.  Art for them was an abstraction, a fragment of an idea that nobody could understand, much less condemn.  However, I had called my art 'Super Realism' because I wanted my audience to make a personal connection with its images and messages.  The older artists were cautious—“half-stepping,” as they used to say in the sixties—trying to get by in the art world and not drawing attention to their blackness.  'Art is art.  Quality is the important thing.  It doesn’t matter what color you are' was their message.  They knew there was little or no support for artists in the black community—so what could be gained by alienating friends and contacts in the white art world?  On the other hand, I was not concerned with friends or enemies..  Being unknown and a newcomer, I had neither.  I was concerned with making truthful statements in my art and having it seen.  Younger black artists objected to my paintings of white people.  Some neither understood nor accepted my need to make images of anyone but black people. Others, I was told, felt that my steely-eyed white faces were going too damn far."
Faith Ringgold, from WE FLEW OVER THE BRIDGE: THE MEMOIRS OF FAITH RINGGOLD. Duke University Press 2005 (147-148). 

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Art Workers in 1969

I can't recall exactly when it was I first heard the term Art Workers.  I do know that by the time I had returned from Howard University and was back in Harlem with Faith at 345 West 145th Street approaching the Christmas holidays in 1969, I had heard of the Art Worker's Coalition, which met downtown on Monday nights at a place called Museum, and either had already attended a meeting myself or was about to.

However, it is only now in reading Julia Bryan-Wilson's ART WORKERS: RADICAL PRACTICE IN THE VIETNAM WAR ERA (University of California Press 2009) that I am beginning to revisit and examine anew the importance of that term in the context of radicalism in the art world in the late 60s and early 70s.  Her book considers in great depth the endeavors of the Art Workers' Coalition particularly as expressed by the activism and art work of Carl Andre, Robert Morris, Lucy Lippard and Hans Haacke, the four artists she mainly focuses on in telling her story.

I cannot ever recall having met Hans Haacke but the other three I got to know quite well, or rather perhaps I should say I got to observe them closely for a time because I was 17 in 1969 and at the time I had no idea who I was.  I was very shy and frequently found it difficult to address adults for more than a sentence or two in this period.

Granted this extreme shyness and lack of self-confidence did not prevent me from dancing or singing on stage (which I did in a number of productions either in or outside of school), nor did it prevent me from saying something belligerent in the context of a demonstration or debate as needed in the service of whatever Faiths' agenda may have been that day.  What I am saying, in other words, is that if you had seen me then you might not have noticed that I was shy and self-conscious.  Indeed, to attract attention to the fact that you are shy defeats the whole purpose of being shy.  The point is to avoid being singled out for special or extreme scrutiny. For this you need to fit in.  Or as in the case of also having a very extroverted mother, grandmother, aunt and sister--none of whom could conceive of shyness and had no patience for it, you need to really never let the ball fall dead in your court.  Just make sure you shove that ball back to one of them, and they will always keep it going.

Sometimes I felt as though I didn't exist at all.  I was most often entirely in my head.   I did not have a will of my own as I recall.  But then Faith kept me very busy so there wasn't a lot of time to sulk.  When I got home from Howard University in the winter of 1969, I got a full time job during the day (working as an account adjuster at Best & Company's) and attending college at night at the City College of New York.  On weekends I guess, I accompanied her to these various demonstrations, openings and parties.

It was during this period that Faith and I and Tom Lloyd were engaged in a series of protests to increase the representation of black and Puerto Rican artists at the Museum of Modern Art  so I would imagine that Lucy, Robert and Carl noticed me less than I noticed them, other than the fact that young people had a certain automatic credibility then.  Particularly since I was always in the presence of my mother Faith Ringgold who was a major player in the Art Activism and in the Art Worker's Coalition in New York at this time.

First, I should say that at the time my perception of all three was that they were very very upset about the Vietnam War and wanted it to stop, and that perhaps they were also anti-racist but distinctly less so.  But the thing that Bryan-Wilson's account really calls into question was my own impression at the time that the two men were vigorously and unrepentently engaged in producing apolitical or anti-political art, and that Lucy who wrote about the art of white male artists like Andre and Morris, was herself a proponent of an art for art's sake view of some sort consistent with the prominence and success of the leading white male artists at the time--who ranged from minimalist and pop painters to conceptual artists of one variety or another, overwhelmingly white, overwhelming male.

I also thought of such people as wealthy, or in other words rich.  Or in other words, they were living (as they were engaged in their anti-war and anti-materialist rhetoric) in relative luxury (despite their paint spattered overalls, their frequently bare feet and bedraggled, uncombed hair) on the spoils of their ostentatiously apolitical art making.  As it happened, my experience of the decade of the 60s as a student at the progressive New Lincoln school (I entered in 7th grade in 1963) had already acquainted me with the self-presentation of poverty or blue collar or farmworker dress purchased from the Army Navy stores that use to sprinkle New York City among the children of the wealthy.  Plus that I had grown up all my life experiencing the importance of neat, stylish and even expensive clothing among the largely working class population of a the black communities of the Bronx and Manhattan.  I fully understood by 1969 that identifying someone's wealth or attitudes about wealth was not a conclusion you could draw from what the person was wearing.  Indeed, quite the opposite.  You would be more likely to understand a person's wealth from where they lived.  Also, I had this notion that if you were a "successful artist," or in other words somebody who was a white male, whose name often appeared in print and who belonged to a prominent gallery (and my favorite solitary social activity even as a teenager was trolling the galleries of 57th Street and the Village, and the art museums of the city of new york) and (this was probably the most important) was employed full time as an artist, then you were probably well off, rich, wealthy, comfortable--choose any of these words.  At the time, they all meant the same to me.

Granted I was not a deep thinker of the issue of wealth.  There was only one important fact I knew about wealth.  Neither I nor anybody in my family was wealthy.

So I am not sure how I came to the conclusion that their notions of art making were an attempt to avoid political issues in connection with their art but I think this may have been what Faith thought.  And perhaps even if you were familiar with Bryan-Wilson's account of their ideas concerning the political usefulness of conceptual art, you might still pooh pooh the whole thing.  Even Bryan-Wilson points out that conceptual art is not much associated in most people's minds with progressive politics.  But her account makes some sense to me, particularly since she brings in the fact that a lot of people in the art world in the 60s were very turned off by the notion of social realism as a valid way to articulate politics in art.  This I was, or subsequently became very aware of.  I also think I didn't see, nor had never seen anything wrong with the idea of art for art's sake (although I would not have had the courage to say such a thing to my mother then).

But then it also makes sense that at this point  (in the early 70s), that such extreme personalities as Carl Andre, Lucy Lippard and Robert Morris would have wanted to bring everything in their lives into a kind of theoretical consistency.  In other words, if they were critiquing the current arrangements of the art world and protesting the implicit contribution of the established art world in the political arrangements of the dominant culture in the United States that they would have also done writing and made art that would  be consistent with those same views.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The United States of Attica by Faith RInggold

The United States of Attica,  1971-1972, by Faith Ringgold.  Offset Paper. 22 inches by 28 inches. All rights reserved.  Currently featured in All the World To See Exhibition at the International Center of Photography.  All rights reserved.

Faith did this poster in tribute to the men who died in the police raid on the prisoner's rebellion in Attica, New York.  It was yet another in a series of events that were extensively televised in the 60s and the 70s where we were all on the edge of our seats watching what would happen to these brave men who had dared to publically risk their lives in order to protest the conditions in the prisons.  Of course, the final debacle took place in the wee hours of the morning long before we had the technological advantages of the internet and of a CNN.

The result of the prisoner's entirely nonviolent endeavor was not only that many of them tlost their lives and/or were subsequently tortured, but that conditions for prisoners in the State of New York grew even worse.   Faith's approach to this poster was to research all the various genocides and murders, including all the casualties of war, that had taken place in American history and write them into a map of the United States.  Indeed, the poster invites others to contribute further documentations of unfair brutalities committed under the auspices of the United States government or from the time the colonies were first settled.   The colors she uses were red and green, in honor of Marcus Garvey's Black Nationalist Flag so popular in the 60s.

"Attica: An Anniversary of Death" by Bruce Jackson, Artvoice 9 September 1999 for more information about the events surrounding Attica written by my former colleague at the University of Buffalo.

The People's Flag Show by Faith Ringgold

THE PEOPLE'S FLAG SHOW, 1970. Cut Paper. 24 x 22 inches.
All rights reserved.

    In 1970, there was a Flag Show that took place at the Judson Memorial Church on Washington Square Park, for which Faith designed the poster and I wrote the words.  The show, after massive participation on the part of artists in New York, was closed by the Attorney General's office.  Faith, Jon Hendricks and Jon Toche were arrested and charged with Desecration of the Flag.  As a consequence, they were dubbed the Judson 3.  They were subsequently vindicated of all charges on Appeal by lawyers who were assisted by the American Civil Liberties Union.  It was an important case for Freedom of Speech among Artists.  In this poster, Faith further  develops her increasingly sophisticated use of words and lettering in art, as well as the image of the American Flag. 

Faith RInggold's Political Posters: Power To The People

In 1970, there was an integrated, predominantly white group supportive of the Panthers called The Committee to Defend the Panthers.  They asked Faith to make a poster, which is featured below but they didn't like it, perhaps because it made explicit that which they preferred to keep a secret: that they were white people who wanted to support but remain in the shadows of the Black Panthers.  Racial separatism had become an extremely volatile issue on the American Left by this time.  The Black Panthers who were not ideologically in favor of racial separatism in terms of their rhetoric, nonetheless had a very dramatic image, which didn't include white people or even women for the most part.  It was an extremely masculine image, in an attempt to address the challenges to black masculinity posed by 400 years of slavery and Jim Crow oppression. But typically, Faith's work would make explicit that which was meant to remain implicit and de-emphasized.  This poster was therefore designed by Faith but never reproduced or distributed.

There was another poster as well that she produced around the same time, "All Power to the People," also never reproduced for distribution in which she imagines a family of Panthers, husband and wife both holding rifles and a child, in a pictorial representation of one of the issues that first brought them to the headlines in California: the right to publically bear arms.

(See "Committee to Defend the Panthers" by Faith Ringgold, 1970, cut paper 28 inches by 22 inches.  All rights reserved.)

FREEDOM WOMAN NOW (1971) by Faith Ringgold. 
Poster/Lithograph.  Cut Paper 20 inches by 20 inches.  

This is one of the 4 posters Faith Ringgold made in the early 70s as a form of black feminist activism.  The others in the series were "Woman Free Yourself" in purple and green, "America Free Angela" in red, white and blue and "Woman Free Angela" in red black and green, the Black Nationalist Colors.  Of course, two of the posters were honoring the case of the arrest of Angela Davis, who was for a time on the FBI's Most Wanted List for allegedly having conspired in an attempted escape from a California courthouse.  The gun that was used was registered in her name.  Angela Davis was subsequently freed with all charges dismissed.   

The posters were meant to be distributed at public meetings, displayed at spontaneous protests, and were conceived as art for the people in the egalitarian spirit of the times.  The posters were formally utilizing once again the BaKuba design from Kuba of the Congo (although Faith had not yet been to West Africa, she was already incorporating elements of West African designs into her work),   and incorporating poster lettering of words popular at protest marches then.  

All words such used were equally and simultaneously inflected as affirmative demands, statements: Freedom, Woman, Now with the order changeable at will in any direction: Freedom Woman Now,  Now Freedom.  Now Woman.  From every direction conceivable. 

In this regard, Faith was proposing visual means of reflecting the current use of language among a movement of Black Cultural Nationalist Poets represented by the Last Poets and Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones), Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, Gwendolyn Brooks and someone once called Don L. Lee.  Their poetry was as much performance, oration, political advocacy and flamboyant rhetoric as it represented a uniquely African American approach to aesthetics.  Faith's work was consistent with their lead with two very important differences: 

she was a visual artist first and always, and the Black Cultural Nationalism of the 1970s never really found their comfort zone with the Visual Arts.

Second, from 1970 onward, she was a feminist.

The Prisonhouse of Culture--Part II




Of course, I haven't actually seen the painting "For The Women's House" since it was originally dedicated at the Women's facility on Riker's Island in 1971, 39 years ago. After that the story of the painting does not end.

At some point subsequent to 1971, the building became a men's prison as the complex of prisons on Riker's Island expanded to hold the incarcerated many, and the men became tired of looking at the women in the main mezzanine and the painting (which Faith had been told could under no circumstances be moved or removed) was relocated to the wall of the cafeteria. Then it was painted over with white house paint in preparation for a new painting by an unknown prison artist.
However, his ambitions (or his sentence) were not equal to the 8 by 8 feet blank white canvas (with images of the women surely insinuating themselves through the house paint, no match for oil paint in the scheme of things). Thus, the canvases (a diptych) were moved again, this time to the basement.
A woman guard who remembered the painting's former glory and Faith on her own intiative found Faith and told her what was happening and that the canvases were soon slated for disposal. This was sometime in the 90s. Faith went to the Commissioner of Prisons.
As it turns out, the prisons (along with every other institution of the City of New York) have extensive and longstanding art collections given to them over the years. The Commissioner rescued the painting from the basement on Riker's Island, brought it to his headquarters, raised the $25,000 needed to remove the white house paint and restore the original oil paint. By the by, if it had been acrylic paint, all would have been lost.
And then the painting was ceremoniously reinstalled at the new women's facility (the Singer Center) on Riker's Island at a great height and safeguarded in all sorts of new and novel ways. Except that the Neuberger Museum at Purchase promises to remove it from its perch one more time to include it in Faith's exhibition of her 60s works in the fall. I am thrilled that I will have a chance to see this object of my youth once again. Will it be as I remembered it. There will be another chance to photograph it under the best of conditions since I doubt the present jpgs for all their glory really capture anything like the actual colors, not to mention oil paint changes and deepens over time.
Faith told the story of "For The Women's House" with much more colorful embellishments and laughs at the Museum of Modern Art in the Education Center in discussion with Lisa Farrington and at the invitation of the Friends of Education this past Wednesday night. I am hoping that their technicians were successful in capturing both the tape of the interview and the videotape (more successful than they were in projecting Faith's powerpoint retrospective of her 50 years of art work, which appeared bleached beyond recognition) because Faith was as brilliant and amusing as a body could be in the space of less than an hour.
She will be 80 October 8th (God willing). I just can't believe it. Independently of everything, I just adore 80 year old women. There is something about that particular perspective on the past that is so fascinating to me, perhaps because it is the only perspective that remains beyond my present imagination. Or perhaps it is simply that after all these years I am finally allowing myself to become fully enchanted by Faith's riveting and constant accomplishments as an artist. The sheer breathe is dazzling even for a daughter.
I've given up fighting it and seeing the other side. Why shouldn't her work be taken as seriously as the great male African American artists Jacob Lawrence or William Johnson, whose works have been celebrated and lionized by the Whitney and the Modern? Because she is a woman?
Why shouldn't her work be taken as seriously as the great women sculptors Louise Bourgeoise or Louise Nevelson? Because she is a painter whose work is often figurative?
Why shouldn't she be considered in the same breathe with the great American painter Georgia O'Keefe, whose work grows more beautiful with each decade? Because Faith sometimes did work such as "For the Women's House," which was deliberately and explicitly propagandistic and political?
Why shouldn't I say so when nobody else will at the Museum of Modern Art or on Facebook or anywhere else I care to? Because I am her daughter, and should know better than to advocate for family?
Why in the world does Modernism, which was supposed to break all the rules, have all these completely insane and completely dysfunctional rules, despites its disdain for "irritable reaching after fact and reason? "
Nevermind. That question is rhetorical. I know the answer oh so well. Because if it didn't, there would be so much junk in the Museum of Modern Art, and every other museum you wouldn't be able to make a path through the crap. It would be like the Collyer Brothers row townhouse in Harlem in 1948 when the police found both of them dead and dessicating under the fallen rubble. Only ten times worse.
Unfortunately, at the Friends Event, there was little time for discussion and not much will to discuss. I think perhaps many of Faith's listeners were shocked into silence and disbelief as she described the unbelievable ordeal of one absolutely obsessed black women's effort to be a major artist in the latter half of the 20th century in a modernist canonical environment. The Museum of Modern Art has often been in our lives. But as Faith said, nobody wants to hear an old woman complain. And so she didn't, which made her message and her meaning, I would guess, all the more cryptic for her listeners who have had so little opportunity to hear her speak and to view her work in New York.
Faith spoke in a small screening room. When I sat down front in a sparsely populated room as the convenor made a point of mentioning that this event would start on time because she appreciated punctuality. So I didn't notice as the room's seats steadily filled.
In the lobby, there was an enormous crowd that I would imagine had never gotten into the auditorium--I don't know whether they had been turned away because the room was full or because they had come to greet others in the lobby. There were many late arrivals among the black bourgeoisie (which is the main constituency of this group), as their evenings had been divided by at least one other event attended that very same night by the Met's Multicultural Committee in consortium with the Links, 100 Black Women and 100 Black Men at the Metropolitan Museum of Art celebrating the new Picasso exhibition that had opened that night.
Recently, I was skimming through photos taken by the great 60s photographer Jan Van Raay of some of the protest activities in the art world that Faith and I engaged in when suddenly I found myself not only looking at a photo of myself at a protest in 1970 in front of the Museum of Modern Art but also wearing a dress that my grandmother made (which is how I actually recognized myself), and which I had modeled in one of her fashion shows that very year. As a coda to the vagaries of the late 60s, early 70s I present them. In 1970, I was 18 and a student at the City College of New York where I had ended up after a riotous semester at Howard University. When I got back to New York, Faith was caught up full swing in the protests of the Art Worker's Coalition and Museum and I could do naught but join in. In those days, although I was credited with much originality (I think because of my youth and physical beauty), I was in fact little more than a cipher, an appendage of my mother's vigorous and determined campaign to set the art world on its heels. It was invigorating nonetheless. And I like the pictures of it more and more as the decades go by. 

Saturday, May 22, 2010

For The Women's House--In The Prisonhouse of Culture


Faith's penultimate mural of the early 70s. 

In the upcoming exhibition of Faith Ringgold's work from the 1960s to open at the Neuberger Museum at Purchase September 2nd, "For the Women's House," oil on canvas, will be the last work included.  Having had occasion to look at this painting a great deal lately, and most recently as part of a presentation I delivered on a panel that was featured in a Symposium on Feminism in Art at the Museum of Modern Art this  past Friday, I have been thinking hard about this longstanding American taboo against art that is both representational and political within the canon of Modern Art. 

I felt it most strongly as a participant in this symposium facing what appeared to me to be a very large female, yet entirely white audience at a public event to which I invited as many people as I thought might be interested to come.  Many people are, of course, entirely unsympathetic to anything wearing the tag of feminism so I kept that in mind when asking people to come.  And yet no one that I invited who might not have found the label feminism abhorrent and could also have come was interested enough on this very busy and very beautiful Friday afternoon to show up.  

Instead, I was greeted by a very polite audience who was nonetheless there I assume principally to take advantage of the other offerings of the women artists included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.  None of the women actually featured in the discussion or the exhibitions were black women, although my panel featured both an Indian and a Cuban woman artist whose presentations I missed, and the collection, itself, does include works by Lorna Simpson and Carrie Mae Weems, both photographers, and Kara Walker, who is largely someone who works with cut paper.   

And yet still Modern Art is very much about painting.  Painting is clearly the most highly valued, generally as indicated by prices.  When Faith made her paintings in the 60s on stretched canvas with oil paint, she had to finally stop doing so because no one wanted to buy them, no one wanted to sell them and she finally had nowhere to keep them.  

This embargo against African American painters (regardless of whether they are representational or abstract) persists to this day and it is no laughing or casual matter. 

I really really love this painting I think for many reason that have nothing to do with its subject matter but rather with the way in which Faith chose to organize the space and the color in the frame.  Of course, objectivity would not be my greatest strength in this context.  And yet, is there any such thing as objectivity in the discussion of the relative merits of visual art.  Are we not all victims of the culture and the education that produced us?  

    In another quadrant of For the Women's House (1971), we see an important female politician
who is running for president speaking into all the network microphones for a press conference, and surrounded by the female members of her family.  The opposing image is of women playing professional basketball.  One player wear NY Knicks number.  The other player wears the number of Wilt Chamberlain.  

In this quadrant, a woman is being married by a female priest.  Her own mother is giving her away instead of her father.  The woman on the right is playing the drums, a significant taboo in the 60s and 70s although many women play the drums now.

For The Women's House

The following are details from a painting by Faith Ringgold called "For The Women's House" installed at the Women's Facility on Riker's Island in 1972.  Faith talked about the experience of doing this first public commission sponsored by the Creative Artists Public Service Program at her historic discussion with art historian Lisa Farrington at the Museum of Modern Art sponsored by the Friends of Education on Wednesday evening.  

This painting was Faith's first public commission.  It was also her first major feminist work.  It was also done at the end of her series of oil paintings beginning with American People and America Black in the 60s.  By the time she did this work, she had already become committed to Black Feminism and the pursuit of equality and opportunity for women.  She composed this work based upon in depth interviews with the inmates at the prison, which I describe in an interview with her called "For The Women's House" in a chapter of INVISIBILITY BLUES (Verso Books 1990).  The interview, itself, was actually published originally in 1972 in an underground publication called "Women and Art."   

It can be difficult to get a copy of this book although nominally it is available through Verso Books and on Amazon.  From what I gather, Amazon actually publishes the book on demand.  In other words, you order it, and they print up a copy.  Needless to say, its been awhile since I have seen any royalties from this book.  And I am disturbed that the picture that accompanies this article is illegible at this point since it is by now a third or fourth generation black and white copy, but nonetheless, I want as many people as care to have access to this work. 

Based upon the interviews with the women in the prison, Faith decided to use only women in the mural (to have included men in the picture would have been to undercut the importance of the activities they were engaged in in the picture).  The detail below, which is divided into two triangular sections based upon the BaKuba design from the Congo is composed of a section showing a female police person with a female hardhat behind her.  In 1972, these were two jobs in which there were very few women.  In 2010, to see women (especially black women) as police officers or in construction is much more commonplace.  

One of the most interesting images in the painting to me then and now is of the triangle on the left in which a white woman is shown reading to her apparently mixed race daughter with kinky red hair from a book about Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King.  Of course, such books were pretty much unobtainable in 1971 and 72.  Decades later, Faith herself would be a primary author for children's books of inspiration based upon the lives of courageous black women such as Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks.  

I thought the inclusion of this white woman with a black daughter was extremely important at the time, especially in the context of a prison in which many of the women who were locked up had come to be so through their association with the men they sometimes had had children with.  Some of these women (most often then it seemed that women were arrested for prostitution) were white women who had mixed race children and black boyfriends (or pimps) or maybe even husbands.  

Of course, even more fraught then as now was the situation for the children of incarcerated women.  I am not sure if they had nurseries then or how long they allowed women who had children while in prison to keep their children but I was always particularly happy about this aspect of this painting because I still think it is a bad idea to ever separate a child from his or her mother, as long as the mother is not trying to harm the child.  

Probably the most tragic thing about a woman being in jail is being separated from her children, if she has children.  Even more tragic is to bear children in jail and then at some point to have to separate mother and child so that the mother can serve the balance of her sentence.  However long that separation may last, there is no possibility for making up for the time lost between mother and child or for undoing the damage thus incurred to the relationship between mother and child.  What in the world could the mother have possibly done that would make it worth while for the society to have to pay the price of damage done to both mother and child?  Meanwhile more likely than not, the mother is there as a result of a plea bargain, which means she may not actually be guilty of any crime, may have pled guilty to a lesser crime when she actually didn't commit any crime at all in order to shorten her sentence.  It's all insanity.    

Detail from For The Women's House, Oil on Canvas, 1971

In this next section of the painting, a white woman bus driver is featured at a time when women still were not driving public buses.  In the other half of this quarter of the painting, we see a woman physician teaching medicine to a black medical student.  At the time still, black women doctors were rare and black women medical students were also rare.  These images were all meant to be projections of career possibilities that women might go into instead of being incarcerated.  At the time, it still seemed very much as though women did not have a full range of opportunities outside of becoming wives and mothers.  If becoming a successful wive and mother wasn't an option because of the lack of opportunities for the men in the community you came from, then prostitution (the oldest profession) and prison were always waiting.  

    In this 60s and 70s it seemed to me as a young women that there were many many women engaged in prostitution.  And that there were always lots of pimps at the bus stations, at local bars and at subway entrances all too eager to ensnare the innocent and unwary young woman of whatever race.  Young women were pursued as easy prey.   In her discussion with Lisa, Faith emphasized her attraction to feminism in her art work being largely a matter of wanting to inspire hope and ambition in her daughters and to hold out for us the possibility of doing more with one's life than reproducing. 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Faith Ringgold: On The Necessity of Primitivism to the Blues Tradition

This is Faith describing how she made the superstructure for her mask of Aunt Edith. Barbara Wallace, my sister took this picture at her talk at Rutger's.
This image links to more photos of the masks Faith Ringgold made with her mother's help before either of them had been to Africa (early 70s I think). I think Momma Jones (Willi Posey) may have gone to Africa first. Both were always intrepid travelers.
Faith has done a great deal of soft sculpture and masks in the course of her 50 year career as an artist. This work is well documented in the writings of art historian Lisa Farrington and in Dancing at the Louvre edited by Dan Cameron (University of California Press 1990) and others, but not necessarily widely seen otherwise. This soft sculptural work, which can be seen now at ACA Gallery in Chelsea, will be featured in exhibitions coming up this year and next year at ACA, Rutger's University and other venues.
Photo copyright Faith Ringgold and photo by Barbara Wallace at ACA GAlleries.

All of which I mention in order to provide the necessary background for understanding this quote from Faith's autobiography, which seems particularly appropriate to the topic of Blues People:
I came back from Africa with ideas for a new mask face, more primitive than any I had ever done before. Primitive is a word I use in a positive way to explain the completeness of a concept in art. I like to layer and pattern and embellish my art in the manner of tribal art, and then, like a blues singer, I like to repeat and repeat it again. Fragmented, understated, or minimalist art forms frustrate me. I want to finish them. In the 1960s there was a minimalist aesthetic advocating "less is more." To me, less is even less and more is still not quite enough. I was now using feathers and beads as never before. I had been to the African source of my own "classical" art forms and now I was set free.
Quotation from WE FLEW OVER THE BRIDGE by Faith Ringgold

Sunday, May 2, 2010

1960s Mural

US POSTAGE STAMP TO COMMEMORATE THE ADVENT OF BLACK POWER by FAith Ringgold (1967). Oil on canvas. All rights reserved. Copyright restricted.

DIE by Faith RInggold (1967). Oil on canvas. All rights reserved. Copyright restricted.

The Flag is Bleeding by Faith Ringgold (1967). Oil on canvas. All rights reserved. Copyright restricted.

Die (1967) by Faith Ringgold

Faith's mural Die is featured in an exhibition at the Art Galleries of Ontario, which has a post on the web at

I remember very clearly and very distinctly when Faith painted this diptych oil on canvas somewhat imaginative depiction of the "race riots" that had begun to plague the United States landscape every summer like clockwork. I was fifteen and had just returned from a summer in Europe with my grandmother (MJ) and my sister Barbara. I came home to find mother hard at work still on two of her three murals for her first one man show at the Spectrum Gallery scheduled for the fall.

These riots were almost always in what we then called "black ghettos," and most participants were either black people who lived in the community, or white officers policing the black community, or white press attempting (usually unsuccessfully) to report on the action. Faith's Die (1967) has grown even more fascinating to me over the years because I am more struck by the tension between her depiction, which portrays both whites and blacks bleeding and fleeing, males and females engaged in a free-for-all reminiscent of Picasso's Gernica(which we had been to visit so many times at the Museum of Modern Art when I was a child) whereas the actual riots were largely black men breaking into stores, battling the police who had guns with rocks or other objects, chaotic affairs.

So the battle Faith's mural portrays is a conceptual one, revealing the undercurrents of what was really at stake in the riots of the 60s, which was black against white conflict mostly in urban cities. Blacks (mostly males I believe) were registering their dissatisfaction with the restrictions of ghetto life, the lack of genuine opportunities for advancement and prosperity, and their realization that despite the absense of the obvious signs of Jim Crow segregation and restriction in the cities, the white power structure was still pulling the strings and keeping them in check.

From this point on (in the late 60s), by the way, the numbers of black males incarcerated begun to increase exponentially even as other kinds of opportunities began to open up for black men who were educated and had bourgeois aspirations. Up until today where we find ourselves with a black president, a black secretary of state, a black governor of New York, and it was a white Governor Rockefeller who caused the massacre at Attica and engineered the discriminatory incarceration practices (see my first book Black Macho [1979], which was all about Black Power, as well as subsequent editions and publications).

Aside from Die, there was also The Flag is Bleeding, which was entirely finished I believe, and U.S. Postage Stamp Commemorating the Advent of Black Power, which immediately became my favorite painting in the world. I was only fifteen so my thinking about it wasn't particularly deep. It was for the simple reason that it included 100 faces in a grid of ten faces by ten faces, with ten black faces in diagonal order representing their status as 10% of the population of the United States and all the rest of the faces were white.

What really held my attention as she painted this painting was the idea, which she shared with me, that the trick of it would be to make each of the faces somewhat distinct from every other and yet obviously more alike than different apart from the difference of skin color. This notion of difference was enthralling to me. Even more enthralling was that every day when I got up and looked at the painting, I would notice that one or more of the faces would have changed owing to the manner in which Faith was building up layer upon layer of paint in construction of these images. Each and every face was entirely different from every other ever so slightly but how? I would scan the surface looking for the slight differences of appearance, and how it was that I knew one face from the other. I never grew tired of this exercise.

These many years later, I have learned of the fascinating work psychologists have done on the human memory for faces as well as the scientific verification we now have that each and every face, with its complex structure of muscles and tendons and emotions, is completely unique and goes much deeper than differences of skin tone or hair texture or gender. It is possible to have a stroke and have one's memory for faces knocked out, leaving other kinds of memory intact. Apparently the loss of the ability to distinguish one face from another and to recognize familiar faces is devastating.

The 60s were a complicated period about which there is a great deal more to say. It is great to see that museums in Canada are taking on the political art of the 60s since our own museums in the United States have been largely unwilling to come to terms with the masterpieces of American political art of the 60s. Of course, a lot of that art would be African American. Could that have something to do with their reluctance? I hope not.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Other Posts on the 60s

Camp Craigmeade--links:
Aunt Helen who ran the black sleepaway camp Barbara and I attended in the 60s dies at camp.
My Counselor Marion.
Camp Craigmeade in the 60s

New Lincoln School--links:
New Lincoln in the 60s. Graduation Year 1969.
Michele in Anything Goes at New Lincoln in 1968
40 Year New Lincoln Reunion at the Prison on 110th Street in 1968.

Sonny Rollins--From Harlem in the 60s:
Once in Awhile: Sonny Rollins in Denmark. Link:
Faith and Sonny Rollins receive honorary doctorates at Rutger's University in 2009.
Sonny Rollins plays for Faith's "Sonny's Quilt" at the Mason Gross School of Art on the occasion of her 50 Year Retrospective.

American People/America Black 1960s links--

Chronology of the 60s


March 26--NAFAD (National Association of Fashion and Accessory Designers) Fashion Show (Hostesses Barbara Mayo and Mme. Willi Posey) at the Red Shield Building.  Zelda Wynn President. Amsterdam News.

June 1st--Fashion Show of Mme. Willi Posey and her models at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Joppa Chapter OES, Amsterdam News.

July 15th--Michele, Barbara, Faith and Mme. Willi Posey depart via the Paquebot Liberty from New York to Plymouth to Le Harve, Tourist Class.  Travel from Le Harve to Paris to Nice and Monte Carlo (Faith and her mother see the performance of Sammy Davis Jr. with the Monte Carlo Dancing Stars), Florence and Rome.

August--While in Rome we learn that Uncle Andrew has died.  Travel by train from Rome through Switzerland back to Paris where we take a jet back to New York for the funeral, which is handled by Barbara Knight (with Burdette's assistance), Mom's sister via her apartment at 345 West 145th Street.  Andrew is the oldest child and dearly loved by all. 


January 1st--
Faith and Burdette are married at Bethany Lutheran Church. Michele and Barbara serve as flower girls. MJ designs all of the clothing and gives the wedding, with a reception at Aunt Barbara's apartment in 345 West 145th Street with Aunt Edith and Aunt Bessie doing the Southern cooking and Momma T (Earl's mother) doing the West Indian cooking.
Michele and Barbara spend their last summer at Camp Craigmeade. Aunt Helen dies during the summer and the camp never reopens.
In the fall upon Michele's return to Our Savior Lutheran School in the Bronx, she had a racist experience with her 6th grade teacher, Mrs. (McKee) Schwernerman, which involved the Director of the School, the Minister at the Lutheran Church we attended and where Faith and Burdette were married, and Faith who confronted them about it.  The teacher yelled at my mother: "Why Don't You Go To The NAACP!" From this moment, the decision was made that I would be leaving this school in the Fall. 


Medgar Evers Murdered.
Michele and Barbara spend the summer at Martha's Vineyard where Faith will develop the first of her American Series paintings on the lawn at the house where we were staying: Between Friends, For MEmbers Only, The Neighbors, The Civil Rights Triangle, Watching and Waiting.
March on Washington in August led by Martin Luther King, Jr. and the SCLC.  Broadcast live on CBS all day. 
In the fall, Michele and Barbara move from 665 Westchester Avenue in the Bronx to 345 West 145th Street in Harlem, and enter New Lincoln School on 110th Street between Lenox Avenue and Fifth Avenue.  Progressive racial school written up in the New York  Times and Ebony Magazine.  Always conceived as such originally in its split from Horace Mann and Columbia University.  Moved into this building precisely because it was poised on the edge of black Harlem in the late 40s. The building now houses a low-security prison.
John F. Kennedy assassinated in Dallas, Texas in November.

Nina Simone came out with "Mississippi Goddamn" to honor the memory of Medgar Evers and the 4 girls killed in the bombing of the Church in Birmingham.  Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come," one of the great anthems of the Civil Rights Movement was issued after his death.  Many great singers would perform it, including both Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding. 


Malcolm X assassinated at the Audobon Ballroom in Harlem in 1965.  Funeral Services held in Harlem with a Parade.

Faith painted her Self Portrait in this year. 


Earl dies of a drug overdose this summer.

Faith, Barbara, Burdette and Michele visit Provincetown, MA with the insurance money Earl left for us. This was our last trip to Provincetown as a family.

Barbara and Michele travel to France, Italy and England with Mme. Willi Posey where they study languages and she visits the Collection shows.

Faith stays at her mother's apartment and paints the three murals of American People at the Spectrum Gallery on 57th Street, which is closed for the summer.

Faith and Burdette separate for a time, although he is still in the picture.  He retreats to an apartment just down the block in 409 Edgecombe Avenue, where he grew up.

Faith's American People exhibition opens in the Fall at the Spectrum Gallery.

 Many of Michele and Barbara's friends from New Lincoln attend the opening on 57th Street--including Danny Allentuck, Stanley Nelson, Sarah Newton, Rosalyn Burks and others.


Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinated.

Robert F. Kennedy assassinated.

Summer--Michele teaches at an arts program held in the High School of Music and Art on the CCNY campus during the summer.

Fall--Michele attends the company class of Arthur Mitchell's Dance Theatre classes, and then Barbara Anne Teer's National Black Theatre.  Forms Black and Puerto Rican Students Alliance at New Lincoln.

Mme. Willi Posey begins making dashikis on commission for the New Breed in Harlem.

October--Faith's father, Andrew Jones, Sr. dies.  Family attends funeral.

June--Michele graduated from New Lincoln.

July--Michele and Barbara travel to the University of Mexico for Summer Study.

August--Michele sees first U.S. moonwalk from Mexico City.  Barbara decides to return to NYC without her after which she is ordered home as well. She spends balance of the summer in The Sisters of the Good Shepard Residence across the street from Beth Israel.

September-- Michele begins school at Howard University.  Loved Howard University so much she decided not to return to Mexico when I had the chance.  Barbara returns to New Lincoln for the 12th Grade. Nonetheless, only had one semester at Howard.  Dad visited and said I should come home.  Said I was partying too much.  


About Me

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I am a writer and a professor of English at the City College of New York, and the CUNY Graduate Center. My books include Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman (1979), Invisibility Blues (1990), Black Popular Culture (1992), and Dark Designs and Visual Culture (2005). I write cultural criticism frequently and am currently working on a project on creativity and feminism among the women in my family, some of which is posted on the Soul Pictures blog.