Faith Ringgold (American, b. 1930)
Dancing at the Louvre (The French Collection Part 1: #1), 1991
Quilted fabric and acrylic paint
73 1/2 x 80 1/2 inches
Gund Gallery Collection; gift of David Horvitz ‘74 and Francie Bishop Good, 2017.5.6.
With this whimsical visual tale, Faith Ringgold subversively writes black women into the canon of Western art. The lively and colorful quilt is one of twelve pieces from Ringgold’s series entitled The French Collection, which tells the fictional narrative of a young Black-American woman, Willa Marie Simone, who moves to Paris in the early 20th century. In this particular scene, Willa is accompanied by her friend Marcia and her two young daughters, who dance joyously in front of Old Masterworks that epitomize Western femininity and motherhood. Ringgold’s characters —female, black, and animated in a folk-art style—function as figures of difference in this sanctimonious space that is filled with icons of Western art. In comparison to the Madonna and Child paintings hanging in the background that represent motherhood in rigid, holy terms, Ringgold presents a much more flexible definition of maternity. She extends the title of mother to include all guiding female relationships by placing Willa in a maternal position in relation to Marcia’s children. The playful nature of the scene also suggests an elastic and communal vision of motherhood, untethered from the weighted Western cultural tradition.
-Ally Cirelli ‘19 and Rose Bishop ‘17 for the 2017 Gund Associate-curated exhibition Black Women/Black Lives.