In episode 37 of The Great Women Artists Podcast, Katy Hessel interviews the world-renowned art historian Bridget R Cooks on the SENSATIONAL and PIONEERING Abstract artist, ALMA THOMAS (1891–1978) !!!!
[This episode is brought to you by Alighieri jewellery: www.alighieri.co.uk | use the code TGWA at checkout for 10% off!]
And WOW. This is one of the most incredible and UPLIFTING life stories I have heard of an artist whose work I am completely in love with – partially for the reason that Alma Thomas did not become an artist until she was in her 70s!!!
A schoolteacher from 1924–1960 (!), it wasn't until after retirement that Alma Thomas took up painting professionally. Enrolling in University as a senior, she quickly shot to fame and was the first Black woman to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney in 1972. She was a groundbreaker.
Known for her electric-like canvases, Alma Thomas transposed the way she saw the world onto the canvas through her shards of shimmering colour that represented flowers, music, science, to the first man landing on the moon and the invention of colour television. Some more muted than others, colour was Alma Thomas's lifeline: “A world without colour would seem dead. Colour, for me, is life”
In this episode – one of my favourites EVER, as told by Bridget so eloquently – we discuss Alma Thomas's life in great detail – including a VERY sweet and personal story from Bridget; what made her choose to be an educator for nearly five decades; her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement despite not 'directly' addressing these issues in her work; her relevance today; looking at museums' role in promoting Black artists; and of course, Alma's global fame when none other than MICHELLE OBAMA acquired her work as the first Black woman artist in the White House Collection in 2015.
This is a really beautiful, uplifting SUNNY episode. And I hope you enjoy it.
WORKS DISCUSSED IN THIS EPISODE!
Iris, Tulips, Jonquils, Crocuses (1969)
Arboretum Presents White Dogwood (1972)
March on Washington (1963–4)
Wind, Sunshine, and Flowers (1968)
Blast Off (1970)
Launch Pad (1970)
Cherry Blossom Symphony (1973)
Pond Spring Awakening (1972)
Resurrection (White House – 1966)
This episode is sponsored by Alighieri
Use the code: TGWA for 10% off!
Katy Hessel: @thegreatwomenartists / @katy.hessel
Sound editing by Amber Miller (@amber_m.iller)
Artwork by @thisisaliceskinner
Music by Ben Wetherfield