Lois Mailou Jones: A Life in Vibrant Color
Johnson, Mark M., Arts & Activities
Lois Mailou Jones (1905-1998) was an award-winning American artist whose life encompassed every decade of the 20th century.
Painting from childhood into the 1990s, she enjoyed a long tenure as an art professor at Howard University in Washington, D.C. She taught there for 47 years, and influenced the work and careers of dozens of young artists who went on to achieve success and respect in the art and teaching professions.
Born in Boston and trained at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Lois Mailou Jones began her career at a time when racial prejudices and gender discrimination were strong in American culture.
This exhibition surveys the vast sweep of Jones' 75 years as a painter, stretching from late Post-Impressionism to a contemporary mixture of African, Caribbean, American and African-American iconography, design and thematic elements.
Developed by the Mint Museum of Art and the Lois Mailou Jones Pierre-Noel Trust, this exhibition of 64 works from public and private collections, as well as from the artist's estate, marks the first time the estate has released many of its major holdings for public presentation.
This retrospective begins with her early bold textile designs, and images from the Harlem Renaissance. Early in her career she, like many others, sought to create a black figurative tradition that would honor her African heritage, and draw attention and respect to African-American subjects. In this regard, Jones was inspired by Alain Locke, a writer and patron of the arts considered to be the father of the Harlem Renaissance, who encouraged her to use black people as subjects.
As a woman and an African-American artist, she earned national and international distinction, and was a pioneer in many ways. She was an incredibly prolific artist working in several media, styles and subject matter. She traveled to Paris and produced dozens of works in an Impressionist technique during one year's time. Jones would return to France throughout her life, and scenes of French life continue to appear even in her later works.
In 1953, Jones married Haitian artist Louis Vergniaud Pierre-Noel. Thereafter, she traveled and lived in Haiti with her artist husband, and her style shows a growing interest in Haitian culture as her work becomes more abstract. She also visited 11 African countries that enabled Jones to synthesize a body of designs and motifs that were then combined into large, complex compositions.
In 1980 Jones was honored by President Carter at the White House for her outstanding achievements in the arts. In the last 10 years of her life, both President Clinton and French President Chirac met the artist and collected her work.
A 144-page exhibition catalogue showcasing the life and work of Lois Mailou Jones accompanies the exhibition. Published by the Mint Museum of Art, it includes essays by Dr. Edmund Barry Gaither, director of the National Center of Afro-American Artists, Boston; Dr. Lowery Stokes Sims, curator of the Museum of Arts and Design, New York City; Dr. …