Wednesday, June 2, 2010

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). 

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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.