Analyze the Following Artworks in Terms of Their Iconography: Tar Beach, Faith Ringgold, 1988. Acrylic on Canvas, and Pieced Cloth
African-American women are credited with the beginning of quilt-making in America. Making quilts was part of their duties as slaves and they made them for the plantation owner’s family. Quilts were part of Faith Ringgold’s family tradition.
The notion of flying has wonderful and magical connotations in the African American culture. Historically, flying was symbolic to African Americans for freedom from slavery and the opportunity to return to their native land. In TAR BEACH, flying symbolizes freedom in Cassie’s world. In her flying dreams her father owns the buildings he looks up to rather than down from buildings he builds as a construction worker. Cassie’s mother has the privilege of laughing and sleeping late into the morning like the well-to-do neighbors. And best of all, her family eats ice cream every day! You’ll notice that the border on the illustrations resemble a quilt. Originally, the author wrote this story on a quilt that she sewed and then used as a canvas for paintings. The actual quilt is part of a series called, “Woman on a Bridge.” They are on display at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Although TAR BEACH is an older publication, it’s still in print—and continues to give a taste of what can be done in the classroom to teach African American culture, language, and history. Hopefully, these lessons will spark awareness in the students and provide some background knowledge for future lessons.