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7 / Domestic Life

Tar Beach 2
Tar Beach 2
Artist / Origin Faith Ringgold (American, b. 1930)
Region: North America
Date 1990
Material Silkscreen on silk
Dimensions H: 66 in. (167.6 cm.), W: 67 in. (170.2 cm.)
Location Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
Credit Courtesy of the artist

expert perspective

Faith RinggoldArtist

Tar Beach 2

» Faith Ringgold (American, b. 1930)

expert perspective

I had written my autobiography, We Flew Over the Bridge, and couldn’t get it published. And so I said, Well, instead of stopping writing, which is what usually happens when people are denied, I am going to start writing more and more and more. I am going to write and I’m going to write right on my art because when they take a picture of the art they will be taking a picture of the words and I will be getting it published anyway without editing. And it worked.

I did the Tar Beach painting in 1988. It’s a story quilt. But I’m writing the actual story down, word for word, on the quilt. The domestic life of a family in the 1930s, forties, and fifties in Harlem, in New York, would center, in the summertime, around tar beach. It's hot and the family wants to be together, but it’s miserable in the house. So you go up on the roof.

That experience was so much a part of my life as a child growing up in Harlem, that it seemed, the story seemed to have been written before I wrote it. It’s a memory that I have of the family being together in a very beautiful and wonderful way. The adults would be playing cards or telling stories; there was no end to how much I loved to listen to them talk. Where did they get all these experiences from? How did they know all these things? And I would just lay there and listen. Now that all of my storytellers are gone, I become the story.” 

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