Alma W. Thomas: Everything is Beautiful
Alma W. Thomas: Everything Is Beautiful provides a fresh perspective on the artist’s dynamic long life (1891-1978) and multifaceted career that was defined by constant creativity. This major retrospective traces her journey from semi-rural Georgia to Washington, DC, to becoming the first Black woman given a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art at age 81. Through artworks and archival materials, this exhibition demonstrates how Thomas’s wide-reaching artistic practices extended far beyond her studio, shaping every facet of her life—from community service, to teaching, to gardening.
The exhibition contextualizes Thomas’s art and life within her creative community, delving into her association with Howard University, American University, and the Barnett Aden Gallery, which she helped co-found. Some of her works are placed alongside examples by her friends and contemporaries like Loïs Mailou Jones and Morris Louis who also helped shape the DC art scene. The exhibition offers an intimate look at this inspiring cultural icon who used her imagination and ingenuity to lead a rich and beautiful life.
This insightful reassessment of Thomas’s life and work reveals her complex and deliberate artistic existence before, during, and after the years of commercial and critical success, and describes how her innovative palette and loose application of paint grew out of a long study of color theory. Essays trace Thomas’s journey from semirural Georgia to international recognition and situate her work within the context of the Washington Color School and creative communities connected to Howard University. Featuring rarely seen theatrical designs, sculpture, family photographs, watercolors, and marionettes, this volume demonstrates how Thomas’s pursuit of beauty extended to every facet of her life—from her exuberant abstractions to the conscientious construction of her own persona through community service, teaching, and gardening.
Published by Yale University Press.