I promised photos from the Alma Thomas exhibit at the Studio Museum of Harlem and other images. They now appear in my crudely put together slideshow. As time goes on, I am realizing these slideshows and often the blog posts are postcards to myself as I rarely have time to make scrapbooks, but I want to remember many things as I get older. I like to share them with others, too.
Back to the Thomas exhibit in Harlem, it was like a walk down memory lane as I had earlier seen many of the paintings in her hometown, Columbus, GA. I once lived and worked at the local newspaper in that city. Owing to my friendship with the late C. Donald Beall, a retired educator, local art collector and preservationist, I met her sister John Maurice Thomas at an exhibition of Thomas’ work in the local art museum. Their family was one of thousands of African American families leaving the South for northern cities, in their case before the First World War.
Thomas is associated with the modernist movement which manifested around the time of her family’s move. She worked for most of her life as a school teacher, earning a graduate degree at Columbia University. She lived in her family’s Washington D.C. home until her death in 1978. Among other things, she attended the 1963 March on Washington, which is depicted in her work.
The Thomas exhibit had special meaning for me because it took place in Harlem, the community in which the late jazz guitarist Grant Green, the subject of the documentary I co-directed, passed away in 1979. The premiere of the film on his life took place last Sunday at the Harlem International Film Festival.
I often visited Harlem before I left New York in 2003. The changes seen there these days remind me of what I saw in Brixton during a recent visit to England.