Test your knowledge with a quiz
- In the late 1970s, social, political, and economic crises dramatically impacted many Americans. Economic stagnation coupled with oil shortages affected the economy, the Watergate scandal and Vietnam War eroded public trust, while activists in the Civil Rights and feminist movements struggled for equality.
- Faith Ringgold’s Ben captures the turbulent atmosphere of the late 1970s. Through his dress and accessories, Ringgold includes a constellation of references and associations that connect this figure to the central controversies of the day. At the same time, she gives the figure a sense of humanity and empathy that connects with the viewer.
- Using techniques and materials that were often dismissed as “women’s work,” Faith Ringgold uses the scale of Ben to establish it as a work of art. Larger than a doll, smaller than a human, it elevates its medium to the realm of high art and makes a feminist statement.
More to think about
How do Faith Ringgold’s Ben (1978) and Duane Hanson’s Executive (1971) each reflect the political and social climate of the 1970s? How might the figures offer different perspectives on the period? Consider questions that you might ask each man if you were to meet them on the street. Which do you think you’d be more interested in talking to?
Smarthistory images for teaching and learning: