Faith Ringgold: Freedom to Say What I Please

October 7, 2023–March 17, 2024

Lower Frances L. Hiatt Gallery (115)

A guest stands looking at 'Tar Beach #2' by Faith Ringgold

For six decades, Faith Ringgold has created art to investigate her place in the world, particularly her experiences as a Black woman in America. Deeply personal, celebratory of African American culture, and rooted in political activism, Ringgold’s work incorporates craft and storytelling to explore themes around identity and history. Including 16 objects that range from textiles and sculpture to paintings and prints, this exhibition will mark the acclaimed artist, author, and activist’s first solo exhibition in New England in nearly 15 years.

Faith Ringgold: Freedom to Say What I Please is a succinct survey of Ringgold’s art which centers around a cornerstone work from the Worcester Art Museum’s collection: Picasso’s Studio (1991). Acquired in the 1990s, it is a prime example of her “story quilts,” objects that combine painting, storytelling, and quilting. It also embodies several central themes that Ringgold has explored throughout her career, including semi-autobiographical fiction, activism, and critical engagements with American history and contemporary civics. The 16 artworks in this exhibition support and expand on these themes, while providing examples of the artist’s work in the decades before and after she created Picasso’s Studio.

The exhibition title comes from a portion of the story inscribed on Picasso’s Studio, spoken by a fictional character inspired by Ringgold’s life experiences: “You asked me once why I wanted to become an artist and I said I didn’t know. Well I know now. It is because it’s the only way I know of feeling free. My art is my freedom to say what I please. [It’s not important] what color you are, you can do what you want [with your] art. They may not like it, or buy it, or even let you know it; but they can’t stop you from doing it.” These words aptly summarize Ringgold’s approach to her artwork, which continues to be as influential as the day it was made.

Faith Ringgold: Freedom to Say What I Please is organized by Samantha Cataldo, the Worcester Art Museum’s Associate Curator of Contemporary Art.

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Faith Ringgold: Freedom to Say What I Please is generously supported by the Fletcher Foundation and an anonymous donor. It is also funded in part by the Don and Mary Melville Contemporary Art Fund and John M. Nelson Fund. Media partner: Artscope.

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  • Samantha Cataldo, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, introduces the exhibition.
  • Learn the powerful story behind Faith Ringgold’s Picasso’s Studio with Samantha Cataldo, curator of Faith Ringgold: Freedom to Say What I Please, on view through March 17.
  • CBS Sunday Morning: Faith Ringgold’s art of fearlessness and joy.
  • NPR: Faith Ringgold reads her 1991 children’s book Tar Beach.

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Selected images