Click here to listen to a very brief interview
Over the weekend, I attended the Technology in the Arts Conference in Pittsburgh where artist and activist Faith Ringgold was one of the keynote speakers. Her talk was called "More than 30 Years in ArtMaking." I had a chance to do a quick video interview with her about her thoughts on women artists.
It was a survey lecture, beginning with her work in the sixities and first-hand accounts of the civil rights movement in her "American People Series" right up to her current work. Her talk was inspiring and often humorous, sharing her stories to illustrate her life's work as an artist, activist, author, teacher, and parent.
She spoke about advocating for women artists in the 1970's and the artistic works that emerged from that activism, like the one below, titled For the Woman's House. She noted, "In the 60's, it was about answering the question "What is black art?" In the 70s, what is women's art? Why are women so important in visual art?" (Listen to the interview for the answer to those questions)
My favorite group of paintings were the ones she did in Europe copying the masters and integrating African American history, culture, and icons. She shared how in art school she had to copy the European masters and wasn't introduced to black artists. When she had opportunity to travel to Europe for an extended visit, she decided to visit the places where the masters worked and the masterpieces and record her versions incorporating black artists. They are brilliant!
As she took us through a timeline of her work, she pointed out how she experimented with different mediums and genres and even invented a few. She has created "quilts" on canvas and evolved this technique into a story quilt, where she wrote the story in words she wanted to tell on the canvas so it couldn't be interpreted by someone else. She has created sculpture, mosaics, paintings, stories, and children's stories and coloring books.
The coloring book, How the People Became Color Blind, was a series of sketches and a children's story that teachers have used all over the country. This story is about being color blind, or free of color prejudice-- one of the most difficult things to achieve in our society. At the end, the book asks readers: How do you deal with this problem in your life? Could you write a story? Could you draw a picture? What do you think of How the People Became Color Blind?
She shared some of her paintings, inspired by seeing the different work that children all over the world has done and read from the story. (I captured some of this on video and in my raw notes in an earlier raw notes post.) You can order a copy of the book and paintings on CD from Faith Ringgold's site.
She made a few jokes about missing her slide projector and having to use powerpoint and a MacIntosh, but I was impressed that a woman in her 70's was so comfortable with the technology. She mentioned at the end she was interested in creating video games for girls and based on what I heard and saw during the keynote, I hope she pursues that interest.
There's a growing number of artists, like Mary Flanagan who is on the board of Games for Change, interested in games. According to Benjamin Stokes, co-founder of Game sfor Change, the NSF has funded several game projects aimed at girls. There are also some women organized commercial developers and a few blogs covering the topic, like Game Girl Advance, particularly Brenda Laurel who is covered in some detail here.