Loïs Mailou Jones: An Art Trailblazer

I'm capping this Black History Month off with one of my favorite female artists, Ms. Loïs Mailou Jones (1905-1998). Why do I love Loïs Jones work so much?...Hmm, how can I sum this up?...Well, she didn't let white supremacy stop her Black Girl Magic, and I freaking love that about her. Her detail and technique is superb. This post will not be an extensive history of her life. Instead, it will appreciate her work. Shown below are a few of my favorite pieces, and I'll briefly explain why for each. Be on the lookout for those underlined pink hyperlinks to learn more about her life as an artist, professor, and trailblazer. 

In the meantime, here are some quick facts about Jones: 

  • She trained at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 1923. She then pursued a B.A. in art education from Howard University. 
  • Her career began when racial prejudices and gender discrimination were high, but she still prevailed and created hundreds of beautiful pieces that have been exhibited throughout galleries and museums across the world. SIS WAS INFLUENTIAL! 
  • She often submitted her work anonymously to museums so they wouldn’t know they were created by a Black woman and get rejected immediately.
  • She held her first solo exhibition when she was a teenager in Martha's Vineyard.
  • Jones visited Paris in 1937 and created beautiful works that were exhibited at the annual exhibition, Société des Artists Français
  • She was recruited to be a professor at Howard University, where she taught for about 40 years. The director of the Boston Museum School refused to hire her. She was encouraged to find a job in the south where "her people lived".....Sooooo basically, I believe she said, "don't believe me, just watch.” and then kicked ass in the art world after this statement was made to her—more on Jones here


Jones's work and expression changed throughout her extensive career. Her career began in the 1930s, and she continued until she died in 1998. Her mix of African imagery with European style breaks away from other African American artists during her time. She was a well traveled woman, and her work reflected that. 


These are my favorite works:
© Smithsonian 


 1. Initiation, Liberia, 1983. 


My interpretation of this piece doesn't align with the artist's intent, but that's art, right? Different interpretations and perspectives should conjure  from the same piece. I see myself when I look at the piece. I often hide and shield my true self from others. I am an introvert with many layers of expression. The side profile in the painting is the true version of myself; I can observe and analyze with my side-eye. The front profile with white paint across the young woman's face is the version I give to the world—guarded, yet present. There are three different women in this painting, but they are just an extension of the one. Ughh, I love this painting so much. 


2. Jardin du Luxembourg, ca. 1948. 

This oil painting is a favorite because of the distinct difference in style from the first piece. I mean, come on, if you were in a museum and you saw this painting, would you assume an African American crafted it? If you did, that is awesome! When I first saw this painting, I had the very ignorant idea that a non-melanin individual did this work because of the style and scene. I love her impressionist works of art. 


3. Festival, 1964. 


This painting captures the time in which it was made. It was made in 1964, a time of monumental moments in history. I can literally feel the explosion of activism, anger, and determination in this painting. I see the rage and frustration with political and social unjust in every brushstroke. My eyes automatically squint every time I look at this piece. I can see moments from the era played out in the painting. It's a favorite  because of the powerful imagery it creates in my mind. 


P.S. I debated adding more of her paintings, but I must consider every image due to space. Anyway, more of her paintings can be found here; you don't want to skip this link. I promise. 


If you're wondering about that painting in my picture; It's a work in progress. Stay tuned for its reveal!😉 


Happy Black History Month!

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