Washington, D.C – Haiti
Like many of her black artist contemporaries, Lois Mailou Jones thought it her duty to educate others on African-American art, not just create it. She spread her knowledge and enthusiasm to students at Howard University and even as far as Centre D’Art in Port-au-Prince. Particularly fond of Haitian culture, she created many works portraying the people and places of Haiti. In fact, President Eisenhower commissioned her to create a portrait of the then-Haitian First Family.
Her fame truly erupted in the 1960s. With the Counterculture Movement in full swing, a renewed interest in African heritage amongst blacks in the US drew attention to her work. At this time she had created works incorporating traditional African symbols and art. This work gave voice to a forgotten ancestry and solidified her place in American art.
The dynamism of Lois Mailou Jones’s style is monumental, nearly as extraordinary as Picasso’s. Starting as a teenager for a fondness for quaint watercolors, her talent expanded after receiving a fellowship to the Academie Julian in Paris. This exposure to a more tolerant culture led to her increasing use of African traditions in her work, and soon she melded the Western styles with those of her ancestry. However, it was a trip to Haiti that truly defined her style. A country that is itself a mix of Western and African cultures, Haiti inspired her to create shockingly-colorful paintings, relying on heavy contrast and primary/secondary colors.
Mere du Senegal, oil on canvas, 1985 (The Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga, TN) http://www2.huntermuseum.org/gallery/601/jones/mre-du-senegal/?perPage%3D36
La Mere, Paris, oil on canvas, 1938 (The Women’s Museum, Dallas, TX) http://www.dallasartnews.com/2011/07/lois-mailou-jones-a-life-in-vibrant-color-at-the-womens-museum-2/
Jennie, oil on canvas, 1943, (Howard University Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.) http://www.artnet.com/magazine/features/vcassidy/cassidy6-8-7.asp
The Water Carriers, oil on canvas, 1985 (Lois Mailou Jones Pierre-noel Trust) http://art257virtualexhibitionyb.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/watercarriersloismallioujones.jpg
Boyer, Kent. “Lois Mailou Jones: A Life in Vibrant Color.” July 12, 2011. http://www.dallasartnews.com/2011/07/lois-mailou-jones-a-life-in-vibrant-color-at-the-womens-museum-2/
O’Sullivan, Michael. “Lois Mailou Jones: Color Tells a Story.” December 24, 2010. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/21/AR2010122106439.html
Virtual Exhibition: Racism and Censorship in the Black Diaspora. “Lois Mailou Jones.” 2014. http://art257virtualexhibitionyb.wordpress.com/lois-mailou-jones/