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a woman reclines casually, topless in colorful surroundings

Jo Baker’s Birthday

In this print, Faith Ringgold depicts Josephine Baker, a dancer, actress, and political activist active for much of the 20thcentury. Baker was born into a working-class Black American family and began her artistic career during the Harlem Renaissance. After moving to Paris, she became successful in avant-garde circles. During World War II, she worked with the French Resistance as a war spy, and she later became involved in the American Civil Rights movement. Baker also became a symbol for women’s sexual liberation. In this print, Ringgold’s use of multiple visual influences and references reflects the diversity of Baker’s own life. Ringgold structures the image through her own narrative quilt style, inspired by the African American tradition of storytelling through quilts. In reference to Baker’s long life in France, Ringgold also borrows from several famous paintings by the French painter Henri Matisse. Among these are Harmony in Red (1908) and Odalisque Couchée aux Magnolias (Odalisque Lying withMagnolias) (1923). In contrast with Carrie Mae Weems’ Untitled, in this print, Baker appears self-confident and reclaims the bed as an unequivocal symbol of women’s empowerment.

Faith Ringgold, American, born 1930

Jo Baker’s Birthday, 1995

Print | Screen print on paper

Gift of the Women’s Studies Program WSU

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