Faith Ringgold

Faith Ringgold (born 1930) is perhaps one the most intergenerationally recognized and revered artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. A civil rights activist, painter, sculptor, printmaker, performance artist, and writer, Ringgold created paintings and prints in the 1960s and 70s that argue as loudly now as ever against oppression and institutional racism. Ringgold is perhaps best known, however, for her painted story quilts that weave personal and collective histories to tell a new story of living in America.

Coming to Jones Road Print #2: Under a Blood Red Sky is the first work by Ringgold to enter the Weatherspoon’s collection. The work is silkscreened on #12 cotton duck and its pieced border is commercially printed fabric that was then tie-dyed, hand-dyed, and hand quilted. The words are hand written by Ringgold with a Sharpie permanent marker. This work was completed on February 19, 2001.

This quilt is part of Ringgold’s Coming to Jones Road series that she began creating in 1999 based on Coming to Jones Road, a story of welcome and acceptance. Told over several quilts, it follows the northward journey in 1792 of 28 slaves who left the cotton fields of a Southern plantation for freedom and a supportive community. Ringgold has written the entire story on the quilt in black lettering. The central image depicts the individuals—both adults and children—as they make progress over many nights, their “way lit only by a chalk-white moon in a blood red sky.”

Jones Road is also the street in New Jersey that the artist and her husband moved to in 1992. Born Faith Will Jones in Harlem, New York, Ringgold initially imagined that this move to a street sharing her given name might feel like “coming home.” However, she experienced prejudice from and rejection by its residents. The artist’s weaving together of personal and historically derived narratives challenges the popular history of the Underground Railroad as being a linear story of “from” slavery “to” freedom, and points up the racially-motivated obstacles that continue to persist at the end of a journey and alongside a new beginning.

Coming to Jones Road Print #2: Under a Blood Red Sky by Faith Ringgold is the first work at the Weatherspoon that directly addresses the history of the Underground Railroad. Works in the collection that it thematically complements include a series of lithographs by Glenn Ligon titled Runaways (2002), a series of prints titled Ghosts (2009) by Juan Logan, and a textile by Sanford Biggers titled Paket (2016). While Logan and Biggers work in the language of abstraction, Ringgold joins Ligon in bringing together text and image to complicate existing narratives and write new ones. Images of all these works can be found on our searchable collections database, available through the museum’s website.

Acquiring this work by a Black woman artist adds a new voice to the conversation in Greensboro, a city known for its participation in the Underground Railroad. We are looking forward to exhibiting the quilt in our public galleries, and having it studied by UNC Greensboro and K–12 students in the future.

Thank you to the many Weatherspoon supporters for making this acquisition possible and to UNC Greensboro senior and 2020–21 Weatherspoon student employee Najah Young Farrington who assisted in researching this work.

Anne and Ben Cone Memorial Endowed Director

Faith Ringgold, Coming to Jones Road Print #2: Under a Blood Red Sky, 2001. Silkscreen on canvas quilt, 41 x 47 in. Edition 4/20. Weatherspoon Art Museum, UNC Greensboro. Benefactors Choice Purchase in honor of the Weatherspoon Art Museum Benefactors, 2002–2021; 2021.7. © 2021 Faith Ringgold / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Courtesy ACA Galleries, New York