Loïs Mailou Jones’ Story
“The wonderful thing about being an artist is that there is no end to creative expression. Painting is my life; my life is painting.” –Loïs Mailou Jones
Loïs Mailou Jones was an American painter and visual artist whose career spanned seven decades. She grew up in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston and trained as an artist at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and the Boston Normal School. In 1923, at the age of 18, Jones had her first solo exhibition on Martha’s Vineyard. She found it was very difficult to get a job in the arts as an African American in the Boston area, and in 1928 Jones took a position as a teacher at the Palmer Memorial Institute, a black preparatory school in North Carolina, where she founded the school’s art department. In 1930 Jones was recruited to join the faculty of the art department at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she taught until 1977. In 1937, while on sabbatical, Jones spent a year in Paris, a trip that influenced and inspired her work. She was also deeply influenced by Caribbean and African cultures, artistic references which were especially prominent in the latter part of her career. Jones broke barriers when in 1973 she became the first African American to have a solo show at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. This show was notable because for much of American history, African Americans were not afforded the honor to display their visual art at galleries and museums in the U.S.