The Artdog Image of Interest
Faith Ringgold’s story quilt Tar Beach (Part 1 from the Woman on a Bridge series), 1988, rewards some time spent looking at it closely. The quilt has enough going on in it to provide several of the illustrations for Ringgold’s 1991 children’s book, also titled Tar Beach.
The book Tar Beach is a semi-autobiographical account of a little girl, Cassie Louise Lightfoot, in Harlem, New York in the 1930s (not coincidentally, Faith grew up there during the 1930s).
At night in the summer, Cassie sleeps on the “tar beach” of her apartment building’s rooftop, and dreams that she owns everything she can see. Her prized possession is the George Washington Bridge, and in the story the stars lift her up so she can fly over it. Here is a video from NPR, of Faith reading the book.
The other story quilts in the Woman on a Bridge series (that I could find) are Double Dutch on the Golden Gate Bridge: Woman on a Bridge #2, 1988; Painting the Bay Bridge: Woman on a Bridge #3, 1988; and The Winner: Woman on a Bridge #4, 1988.
Tar Beach, the most famous of the series, is in the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Here’s a glimpse of the size of the quilt and more about its background.
Faith enrolled in the City College of New York in 1950, planning to study art–but women could only enroll in certain majors at the time, so she studied art education. She taught in public schools until 1973, when she turned to creating artwork full-time. Listening to her read, however, I’m not sure her inner teacher went away. More likely that’s the part of her who wrote and illustrated 17 children’s books.
I also thought it was fascinating (because I’m fascinated by cultural exchanges) that she picked up the idea to put a fabric border around her paintings from a Thangka exhibition she viewed in the Netherlands.
IMAGES: Many, many thanks to Gathering Books, for an image of Tar Beach that was big enough to allow us to some of the richly-worthwhile view smaller details in the quilt, and to NPR on YouTube, for the video of Faith reading her book.