Vivien Green Fryd, professor of history of art, will lecture on “The Transgenerational Trauma of Slavery in Faith Ringgold’s Slave Rape Story Quilt ” in Paris on December 6 at the Terra Foundation for American Art Europe. Fryd is currently the Terra Foundation Visiting Professor of American Art at the Freie Universität, Berlin.
Faith Ringgold’s Slave Rape Story Quilt (1984-1985) challenges the viewer to witness, acknowledge, and remember the individual and transgenerational trauma of slavery during the Middle Passage and on southern plantations. Combining painting, quiltmaking, and text, this storytelling quilt constructs a fictional first-personal slave narrative in which the heroine, born into slavery, a progeny of rape, and a victim of rape, journeys from sexual slavery to freedom, from silence to speech. Ringgold thus follows the tradition of the classic, propagandistic fugitive slave narratives, published by whites, that became a unique American literary form by the mid-1840s, as forceful and moving first-person accounts intended to arouse antislavery sentiments.
Fryd will argue that Ringgold represented the intergenerational transmission of trauma as postmemory, the relationship of previous generations to powerful, often traumatic, experiences that preceded their births but nevertheless were transmitted to them so deeply as to seem to constitute memories in their own right, though they can never be fully understood nor recreated.
Fryd is the author of Art and Empire: The Politics of Ethnicity in the United States Capitol, 1815-1865 (Ohio University Press, 2001; reprint Yale University Press, 1992) and Art and the Crisis of Marriage: Georgia O’Keeffe and Edward Hopper (University of Chicago Press, 2003). She is currently writing a book manuscript entitled Representing Sexual Trauma in Feminist American Art, 1960-present. She has published articles in The Art Bulletin, The American Art Journal, The Winterthur Portfolio, American Art, National Women’s Studies Association Journal, Common-place: The Interactive Journal of Early American Life, Continuum, Traumatology, and other journals. Her essays appear in a number of edited books, including Critical Issues in Public Art: Content, Context, and Controversy, ed. Harriet F. Senie and Sally Webster (HarperCollins, 1992), Critical Issues in American Art, ed. Mary Ann Calo (Westview Press, 1998), and Reading Country Music: Steel Guitars, Opry Stars, and Honky-Tonk Bars, ed. Cecelia Tichi (Duke University Press, 1998).
Free and open to the public, Fryd’s lecture will begin at 5 p.m. in the Terra Foundation for American Art Europe at 29 rue des Pyramides.