Faith Ringgold is an African-American artist, author, and activist for social change for women and African-Americans. Ringgold was born in 1930 in Harlem, New York City and is best known for her large, painted story quilts. As an artist, Ringgold explores a range of subjects however most of the inspiration for her narratives has been derived from feminism, race relations, and from her family. In the late 1970's, Ringgold turned to celebrating the lives of ordinary people from her neighborhood in Harlem and in 1983, she began making painted quilts. Her quilts examined race and feminism through detailed fictional story lines, some of which were from her own experiences. In 1985, Ringgold completed, Street Story Quilt, which is a narrative triptych of urban American life. Ringgold's quilt unravels a story that is both unnerving and inspiring at the same time and will be discussed and analyzed below.
For this work, Faith Ringgold used acrylic and oil paints, felt-tip pen, and sequins on canvas in addition to dyed, painted, and pieced fabric for each of the panels in order to construct the vibrant and detailed, 90 x 144" Street Story Quilt #1, 2, and 3. Each of the three panels of the quilt consist of a grid of fifteen windows. Because the grid of fifteen windows is depicted three times at different moments in a story that transpires over the course of decades, this quilt falls between representational and abstract art and is considered to be an example of stylized art. In each panel, handwritten text that tells the story is placed above each of the fifteen windows. The windows in the panels are further separated by boldly patterned pieces of fabric that appear to act as frames for each of the windows.
When looking at Street Story Quilt #1, 2, 3, several of the visual elements that are immediately noticeable include the use of lines, shapes, and color. To begin, Ringgold uses many distinct lines in each of the panels of the quilt for various reasons. One example of her use of contour lines is displayed around each of the fifteen windows in all three panels. The thick brown lines frame the windows in order to create contrast and boundaries between the brilliant colors of the background and the vivid imagery in the windows. With this, the contour lines also serve as a way of highlighting the images and figures that are inside of the windows. Because Ringgold uses such a vast assortment of media for creating this quilt, her use of contour lines also helps to tone down the "busyness" of the quilt and can help prevent viewers from becoming inundated with too many different elements at once. In addition to contour lines, Ringgold also uses directional lines to navigate viewers through the work, guiding them through each scene of the quilt. An example of her use of directional lines can be found in each of the three panels of the quilt. On each panel, a thick brown and cream horizontal line is placed directly above the first row of text boxes to draw the viewers attention to the starting point of the story and is followed by thick vertical strips of fabric that direct the viewer downward through the images and the story.