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Fabric designs show start of pioneering artists career
Work by painter and textile designer Lois Mailou Jones will be on display through Dec. 14 at Brenau University's Simmons Visual Arts Center.

‘Lois Mailou Jones: The Early Works'

When: Exhibit through Dec. 14, reception from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Nov. 20

Where: Simmons Visual Arts Center, Brenau University, 500 Washington St. SE, Gainesville

How much: Free

More info: 770-534-6263

"Lois Mailou Jones: The Early Works," now on display at Brenau University's Simmons Visual Arts Center, gives viewers a look at the beginning of the artist's successful 70-year career.

"She was an African-American painter during the Harlem Renaissance," said Vanessa Grubbs, the gallery director at Brenau University.

Born in 1905, Jones was a teacher who was interested in the arts, Grubbs said.

"Eventually she ended up doing the work that you see in our gallery, which are designs that were later turned into fabric designs. But she is greatly remembered because she gave proof of the talent of black artists," Grubbs said.

Jones graduated from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts with a master's degree in textile design. She sold her designs to department stores and manufacturers in New York and Boston, but later ended her career in textiles to become a painter.

"It was important that she got noticed - one, as a female artist, two, as an African-American artist," Grubbs said.

Jones moved to North Carolina in order to begin a career in teaching after being rejected by schools in Boston based on her race.

Grubbs said Jones's contribution to teaching is "one of the other things that makes her work so important."

Jones taught at Palmer Memorial Institute, a prestigious black school in Sedalia, N.C., and was later recruited to teach at Howard University, where she stayed for 47 years.

She studied in Paris in 1937, where she was able to find freedom as an artist without the boundaries of segregation. Her paintings depicted an impressionist view of the streets, landscapes and people of Paris.

African art also was enjoying success in Paris, which influenced Jones to become one of the first black artists to use African imagery in her work with her piece entitled "Les Fetiches," depicting African masks in a cubic style.

When she later married Haitian designer Louis Pierre-Noel, she began spending time in Haiti and was deeply influenced by the art there, moving on to create works that mainly reflected African culture.

Jones received many awards and much international acclaim, with exhibits at major museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Museum of American Art and the Museum of Fine Arts.

"The Early Works" includes almost 50 designs for wallpaper and fabric from the first decade of Jones's career.

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