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Seven Passages to a Flight

Next time you are in the Memorial Art Gallery, look closely at the brightly colored, exuberant images in Faith Ringgold’s recently installed story quilt, Seven Passages to a Flight, then read the text at the bottom and top of the images. There is one passage for each image, save the center “title” image. An autobiographical work, Seven Passages’ images each represent an important message or lesson learned by Ringgold. Like much of her oeuvre, it tackles serious issues with hope. Personal and political issues such as death, illness, racism, and equal rights for women are all touched upon. Ringgold often makes references to major art historical figures in her work and this quilt is no exception. Notice Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa at the bottom center – this image was based on a family experience at the Louvre Museum in Paris and is also the subject of one of Ringgold’s paintings, Dancing at the Louvre.

Art of the Harlem Renaissance, traditional African design, and quilts made in the African-American slave community greatly influence Ringgold’s work. Quilt-making and working with fabric had personal significance for the artist: her mother was a fashion designer, her grandmother was a quilt maker, and her great-great grandmother made quilts as part of her work as a slave. The quilt, traditionally considered a craft and only recently viewed as an art form rather than ‘women’s work,’ was transformed by Ringgold. In her hands, it has become a canvas for a narrative, a singular form that has been acclaimed by connoisseurs and enjoyed by audiences of all ages. To learn more about Faith Ringgold, go to her website at


Faith Ringgold, Seven Passages to a Flight, 1995. Cotton, nylon and monofilament thread. Marion Stratton Gould Fund, 96.92.1

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