November 2010
 
Loïs Mailou Jones Retrospective
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By Shayla Hart, graduate assistant, Office of University Communications

"Street Vendors, Port au Prince, Haiti, 1978; Courtesy of the Loïs Mailou Jones Pierre-Noël Trust
"Street Vendors, Port au Prince, Haiti,” 1978; Courtesy of the Loïs Mailou Jones Pierre-Noël Trust

A three-month traveling exhibition featuring one of Howard’s artistic legends opened last month at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) in Washington, D.C. “Loïs Mailou Jones: A Life in Vibrant Color” is one of the first retrospectives paying homage to Jones’ legacy as an artist, designer and Howard professor. More than 70 paintings, textiles and sketches from the pioneering artist’s 75-year career are included in the exhibit.

Tritobia Hayes-Benjamin, Ph.D., associate dean of the Division of Fine Arts, has long been inspired by Jones’ contribution to the arts. “[The retrospective provides] a look over Jones’ life, career and early years as a student, then as a teacher, artist and mentor,” says Hayes-Benjamin.  

Jones was a professor of design and watercolor painting at Howard from 1930 until her retirement in 1977. During her tenure at Howard, she inspired hundreds of students that have gone on to become influential artists themselves, including professor Starmanda Bullock, Ph.D., the former chair of the Department of Art.

 “Jones’ influence is still living and breathing through the students she has taught who have gone on to continue the legacy.”
Loïs Mailou Jones created artists that would never have done what they did without her instruction," says Bullock. "The retrospective highlights the extensive work that she did. It honors her and what she did many, many years ago."

“The exhibition had to come here,” says Deborah Gaston, director of education at NMWA. “Jones’ influence is still living and breathing through the students she has taught who have gone on to continue the legacy.”

Jones’ artistic foundation began at Boston’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts, where she was indoctrinated into the Impressionist Style. In 1937, she went on sabbatical from Howard and traveled to

Paris. During this time, her work consisted of muted silver, blue and gray tones. She later traveled to Haiti and Africa, places that define and influence the style for which she is most recognized: vibrant colors.  The current exhibit showcases work influenced by both places.

During Homecoming weekend, the NMWA hosted a special weekend to pay tribute to Jones, with complimentary admission offered to Howard faculty, staff, students and alumni.

Many people may have heard of her. Now they can be introduced, reunited and instructed by her art,” says Hayes-Benjamin. “ The retrospective reestablishes her presence for over 50 years, and allows former students, associates and friends to have a time to revisit with her. Jones has made a valuable contribution to American history.”

The exhibit was developed by the Mint Museum of Art in Charlotte, N.C., and is a collaboration between the Loïs Mailou Jones Pierre-Noël Trust and the International Arts & Artists. The retrospective will be at the National Museum of Women in the Arts until January 9, 2011.

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