artist you should know / faith ringgold

i have been so bad at art posts lately, and i'm going to try to be better about it! i have been planning to share this very special artist all month, but somehow have had so many other things to post about i didn't have a spot for her. but enough is enough, you all need to know faith ringgold.

faith ringgold, self portrait, 1965

faith ringgold, self portrait, 1965

i hadn't heard of faith ringgold before i interned at the national museum of women in the arts. on our first day in dc, jarman and i visited both places we would be working at that semester. when we walked through the museum, there was an exhibit on ringgold's works. i could immediately tell they were political, so sadly i walked right past them. i always insist to jarman that i hate all things political, so i had to make the point that i also didn't like political art. 

on my first day of work at the museum, i attended a lecture on faith ringgold and my eyes were opened. her works are truly important in our country's history, and sadly there are many people that don't know about her. many of her works still haven't been purchased by museums because of their controversial yet blunt connotations. i am seriously embarrassed that i had the gall to walk past such honest works, and have learned a lesson.

faith ringgold, the flag is bleeding, 1967

faith ringgold, the flag is bleeding, 1967

about the artist:

faith ringgold started painting in the sixties. think about that for a second- she was a black woman painting during the civil rights movement? do you think she was respected or heard? absolutely not. but she continued to paint and show her side of the story. she approached other black painters at the time, but they didn't respect her as a female artist. she finally got a big break and was given the opportunity to paint in a large studio, while her children lived with her mother for the summer. this was when she created her largest works, and pulled out all the stops. her early works (like these paintings) are actually her least popular. later in her life she began making story quilts and children's books that are much more well renowned.

faith ringgold, die, 1967

faith ringgold, die, 1967

die, 1967:

pablo picasso, guernica, 1937

pablo picasso, guernica, 1937

nicholas poussin, the abduction of the sabine women, 1634-35

nicholas poussin, the abduction of the sabine women, 1634-35

tony smith, die, 1962

tony smith, die, 1962

this piece is my favorite of her early works. it is so bloody and scary, but has so many great connections to the art historical past while showing something new. she clearly pulls from picasso's famous work guernica with the black and white boxy background and planar arrangement. the subject matter also matches picasso's work, which shows the effects of war on the population.  i also feel like she was looking at the many paintings of the taking of the sabine women- the ancient story of the roman men stealing the sabine women for the empire- with the men and women fighting and the children looking directly and cautiously out. because the painting is not confined to the canvas- people's bodies literally spread across the edges- i think it is almost frieze like. in greek and roman temples the frieze was a continuous relief sculpture above the columns and went all the way around the temple, often showing a battle between centaurs and humans, amazons and humans, etc. like a frieze, ringold's scene spreads past the canvas, which shows that racial battles spread across the united states. lastly, her title evokes an interesting meaning as well - ringgold was working during the sixties, a time when minimalism reigned and figuration was no longer scene. her works show more than the human form, they show the angst of a nation. in 1962, just a few years before this work was created, tony smith created his famous 6'x6'x6' metal cube and titled it die. while his work has lots of it's own evocations, it fails to show the state of the united states social upheaval. ringgold's painting, though scary and at times hard to confront, is an honest portrayal of our countries past, and truly shows her side of the story.

contemporary artist / teresita fernandez

while we lived in washington dc i had the opportunity to attend lots of contemporary artist's lectures at the american art museum. i loved hearing about the artists views and what drove them to make art. for some it was all visual, for others it was much more conceptual. in the fall, i got to see teresita fernandez and i totally fell in love with her vision of art. i wrote up this post a little bit after for the national museum of women in the arts blog, and am just getting around to sharing it here. i hope you are inspired by her amazing works!

What do you get when you combine Gericault’s romantic Raft of the Medusa, Hokusai’s woodblock prints, and Rothko’s saturated colorfields? You are probably not thinking of a pedestrian walkway bridge in Seattle. However, Teresita Fernandez combined these influences and created an ethereal and majestic walkway, seemingly transporting its visitors to a heavenly realm.


Teresita Fernandez is a contemporary artist from Miami, who considers her works to be ‘landscape sculptures’, a term which she feels is underused, and a style understudied. She differentiates her style from ‘land art’, which is a more well known type of art that actually uses land as art, rather than bringing it into a museum or artistic space. Many of her sculptures incorporate mixed media materials, including glass, thread, mirrors, graphite etc.


A major theme in her works is the perception of movement that our minds create when we combine multiple images in a rapidly syncopated fashion. She aims to create sculptures that are experiential and immersive. Rather than just viewing, Fernandez wants her audience to ambulate and read the works, constructing new images and relations. Most of her works tend to evolve depending on times of day, place of viewing, and the ways in which one moves around the work.


Fernandez is the youngest artist to be commissioned by the Seattle Art Museum for Olympic Sculpture Park, and was asked to create the walkway leading into the park. In Seattle Cloud Cover she combined hundreds of images of colorful clouds, placed them between glass and covered the walkway. The images are perforated with little holes giving tiny views of Seattle’s skyline in the distance.  She wanted the view of Seattle to seem like it was moving slowly through a projector.

Much like our own Chakaia Booker New York Avenue sculptures, the piece changes as one moves around it, no one view is ever the same. Booker and Fernandez alike aim to incorporate the setting into the experience of their artwork. Each is also faced with the daunting task of finding materials that will fit their vision. While Booker works with tires and must strategically plan our each sculpture before it is put together, Fernandez had to stitch thousands of images of clouds together and create her sensorial experience. It is interesting to see these two women being commissioned for large public sculptures, which would have never been possible years ago.

fashion / new year's eve inspired by mickalene thomas

i have thought about doing outfits inspired by artworks for a long time, i just never found the right inspiration/concept. then, one day as i was walking around the national museum of women in the arts (for my internship), i saw it. i had seen lots of mickalene thomas works, but this one was perfect. it had recently been hung and i was so happy to see it in person.

mickalene thomas (b.1971) is an african-american female artist who reembodies her own stereotypes. she takes inspiration from andy warhol's repetitive prints: originally this work was one in a series of forty, a-e-i-o-u and sometimes y (2009), that was displayed on a single wall. rather than silkscreen or paint, thomas uses rhinestones as her medium, and somehow creates so much depth and variation even when using just black. many of her works are multicolored and patterned, but i love the simple two-tone coloration of this work.

for this new year's eve outfit, i tried to use a simple palette of hot pink and black rhinestones (sequins are close enough right?). i got that velvet brand dress at the rack at the beginning of the year for no reason other than it was the best thing i have ever seen. we paired it with some pink leggings (that weren't quite the right color, but we were working with what we had). the shoes were old bcbg ones with the best wooden heel and patent leather. we had to add even more sparkle with the rhinestone bracelet. we used my favorite nars lipstick in 'schiap' with liquid eyeliner and all the other normal make-up. 

ps. i'm so happy to have my model back! i love being able to style and photograph and not worry about modeling!

contemporary artist / marina abramovic

i saw this video awhile ago and haven't been able to get it off my mind. marina abramovic was a popular performance artist in the 70's an 80's. In 2010 there was a retrospective of her works at the museum of modern art. during the show, abramovic performed a piece wherein she sat in a chair for over 7 hours a day 5 days a week and looked into her viewers eyes. audience members were able to interact with the artist on a very personal level through intense eye contact. during the show, a man that she used to know/love/work with visited her after not seeing her for many years. her reaction is marvelous.

read more about her here.

women in art / daniela rossell

rossell - inge and her mother.jpg

The following images depict actual settings. The photographic subjects are representing themselves.

This is the opening line to Daniela Rossell’s photographic book, Ricas Y Famosas (2002). This book is a collection of disturbing photographs of Mexico’s elite. While Rossell follows a strong tradition of Mexican photography, she differs by showing the upper classes, rather than the poverty stricken. What is most interesting about her images is that the women dress and pose themselves. Rossell goes to their lavish and opulent houses, and creates voyeuristic images of the ‘rich and famous’ women of Mexico.

Rossell is not an outsider to these women. Her father was a member of the PRI (the ruling political party for over 70 years in Mexico, up until the 90’s), and many of the women she photographs were members of her family and their social circles. This gives her a unique vantage point into these women’s lives. On the one hand, she sees that they represent the pitfalls of Mexican society. However, she also has empathy for the women, because she understands that they are somewhat trapped in their roles.

The women who are in the photographs were originally pleased with the ways they were presented. They were wearing their favorite clothes and were in their favorite places of their houses - much like many of the photos women take. When the book was released and showed her many pictures side by side, it caused a lot of negative press. The cumulative effect of the photographs was detrimental, and changed the meaning of the photos. The women were called the ‘poster girls for corruption.’ Eventually, they came to dislike the photos and were embarrassed by what they had once adored. They felt they had overexposed their lives.

“The women figure out from magazines and television what they think a photographer should snap, and they start performing….They really want to look American…and they go to a lot of work to accomplish that. It’s a kind of hell. There’s so much unhappiness among the people who supposedly have everything.”

This week I got to do my very first gallery talk at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and we had a really great discussion about Rossell’s works. The photographs present many fascinating talking points for viewers to ponder and discuss. What I find most intriguing about Rossell’s viewpoints are her thoughts on femininity. She is interested in portraying images that are in ‘feminine spaces,’ namely the home. But why are these spaces determined to be feminine? Were they created by women? For women? What ways should women seek to portray themselves and what is empowering women? Where do we find our role models? From tv and magazines? (Rossell’s series was actually named after a popular telenovela.) Rossell questions the progress of feminism and tries to show that maybe we haven’t come as far as we thought.

While Rossell’s work is not something you would want to hang in your house, I feel like her pictures present questions that every woman should ask herself. How am I portraying myself to others? What are my motives in presenting myself in this way? Who and what are my role models, and am I living up to my full potential? I think it is important for women to look from the outside in and reevaluate where we place our value. While the holiday season can be inundated with materiality, we must remember that things will not make us happy like people will.

{ps. You can watch interviews with Rossell about Ricas y Famosas from the SFMOMA here and here.}