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Cover for Alma W. Thomas

Alma W. Thomas

Everything Is Beautiful

Jonathan Frederick Walz (Editor), Seth Feman (Editor), Tiffany Barber (Contributions by), Rebecca Bush (Contributions by), Aruna D'Souza (Contributions by), Jacqueline Francis (Contributions by), Kimberli Gant (Contributions by), Ross Gay (Contributions by), Grey Gundaker (Contributions by), Michael D. Harris (Contributions by), Melanee Harvey (Contributions by), Melissa Ho (Contributions by), Amber Kerr (Contributions by), Gwen Manthey (Contributions by), Amy M. Mooney (Contributions by), Sydney Nikolaus (Contributions by), James Nisbet (Contributions by), Nell Painter (Contributions by), Rebecca VanDiver (Contributions by)


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A sweeping retrospective of Alma W. Thomas’s wide-reaching artistic practice that sheds new light on her singular search for beauty

Achieving fame in 1972 as the first Black woman to mount a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Alma W. Thomas (1891–1978) is known for her large abstract paintings filled with irregular patterns of bright colors. 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 in association with The Columbus Museum and the Chrysler Museum of Art

Yale University Press, 9780300258936, 336pp.

Publication Date: August 17, 2021

About the Author

Aruna D'Souza is the former associate director of the Research and Academic Program at the Clark, and a scholar of modern and contemporary European visual culture and feminist theory.