Like many feminist-aligned artists in the 1970s, Faith Ringgold embraced collaboration as a politically significant part of her practice. Ringgold’s primary collaborator was her own mother, the fashion designer and dress maker Willi Posey. Mrs. Jones and Family (1973, also known as Mrs. Jones, Andrew, Barbara, and Faith) was created with Posey, who designed and sewed garments for many of Ringgold‘s mask sculptures throughout the 1970s.
Made in an effort to imbue flat Tanka paintings — such as 1972 Slave Rape series — with “a more humane dimension,” mask sculptures such as Mrs. Jones and Family constitute the artist’s early forays into what she came to describe as “soft sculpture.”
This work, among other examples of Ringgold’s fabric dolls and other large stuffed figures also made in the early ’70s, was constructed under the aesthetic influence of two significant cultural tendencies of the moment: second-wave feminism and pan-Africanism, the latter of which emerged with renewed energy as a manifestation of the black power movement. Seen together, these influences propose a linkage between textile traditions historically considered “women’s work” and ceremonial Dan masks from modern-day Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire. These influences would become pervasive in Ringgold’s work for much of the decade.
Photographed in the New Museum in Manhattan as part of the Exhibit, Faith Ringgold: American People, which closed on June 5th, 2022.