Janelle Monáe

Source: Michael Simon / Michael Simon

Janelle Monáe is honoring the legacy of Loïs Mailou Jones, an artist, and educator who was discriminated against in her time, by partnering with Martell to promote an exhibition of her work at The Bishop Gallery in Brooklyn. 

Jones was an accomplished artist who founded The Little Paris Group to offer artists a place of refuge in an art world that deemed them unworthy. Her work includes scenes from her European travels that inspired the salon and powerful self-portraits. When she returned to the states, she was forced to ship her work to galleries in crates so that those evaluating it would not know she was Black woman. 

“I think that a lot of artists stand on the shoulder of Loïs Mailou Jones, and they don’t even know it. I don’t think a lot of people understand her impact, and it’s so important for me, whenever given the opportunity to shine light on someone like Lois Mailou Jones,” Monáe told HelloBeautiful

She described the painter as someone “who paved the way, who sacrificed so much, who didn’t have the access that artists today have.” 

Monáe, who entered the entertainment industry with an aesthetic and sound that didn’t quite echo the mainstream in 2010, noted the importance of appreciating artists at every level of popularity. 

“I personally think it’s important just to say thank you to her and to bring awareness to her work and to inspire a new generation of artists who are looking for new heroes and folks who were not as mainstream as others, but looking for some new hope, new inspiration, and a sort of blueprint to be inspired by,” she said. 

Monáe inadvertently followed in Jones’ footsteps by founding The Wondaland Arts Society. The society is a creative home for storytellers in music, television, film, fashion, design, literature, and other artistic mediums. It reflects the camaraderie displayed by collectives like the Organization of Black American Culture, Where We At, AfriCOBRA, and later groups like Heavy Hitters and the Ruff Ryders. Wondaland member Nate Wonder was there supporting his colleague. 

Janelle Monáe

Source: Michael Simon / Michael Simon

“I feel like what Lois did, Mailou Jones did with the Little Paris Group is very parallel and similar to what I’ve done with Wondaland Arts Society,” said Monáe. 

“Since the beginning of my career I’ve had a community of people that I can brainstorm with, I can sharpen my sword with, I can trust, I can be inspired by, I can grow something together with them, and I’m directly impacted so positively.” 

Monáe believes artists thrive surrounded by people who get their need to create. 

“Community is everything to art. Having a community of people to uplift you, to help you feel seen, help you feel heard, to talk shop with, to be inspired by is, to me, deeply important to sustaining a career, to sustaining a passion,” she said. “It’s important that artists are understood by folks doing the same work that they’re doing.”

The Bishop Gallery is displaying the work of Loïs Mailou Jones through March 31. 


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Janelle Monáe Is Highlighting The Legacy Of Progressive Black Artist Loïs Mailou Jones  was originally published on