Alma Woodsey Thomas (American, 1891–1978)
acrylic on canvas
60 in. x 40 1/8 in. (152.4 cm x 101.92 cm)
Gift of halley k harrisburg, Class of 1990, and Michael Rosenfeld, 2003.28. Artwork in the public domain.
Artist Alma Thomas stated: “Painting released me from the limitations of the past and opened the door to progressive creativity.” The limitations to which she refers is the expectation that all works produced by Black artists had to contribute to a “black aesthetic” or serve to counter hegemonic representational views of the Black community. Thomas’s choice to employ abstract expressionism in her process was a refusal of these expectations, allowing her a freedom for self-expression and individual nuance. An avid student of color theory and modernism, most of Thomas’s works are inspired by scenes in nature. Her palette and technique reflected her long studies of color’s complexity and the watercolor medium. Though born in Georgia, her family relocated to Washington, D.C., seeking relief from racial tension. She took her hometown’s celebrated Japanese cherry trees as a source of inspiration for this work.