Thelma Johnson Streat: Faith in an Ultimate Freedom


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January 20-March 7, 2014  Viewing by appointment.

Faith in an Ultimate Freedom is a ground-breaking exhibition featuring the artwork of Thelma Johnson Streat (American, 1911-1959).  The exhibit consists mostly of work held by the family of the artist.  Thelma Johnson Streat was an African American painter and dancer who focused her career on promoting ideas of multi-culturalism and raising the social awareness of inequalities among the lines of gender and race.  The scope of this exhibit spans her entire career, beginning in the mid-1930s and ending in the mid-1950s, when the artist suddenly and tragically, died of a heart attack.  

In the late 1930s and early 1940s,  Streat worked with the WPA executing murals in San Francisco.  She worked closely with Diego Rivera on the Art in Action mural there in 1940.  She continued to use the genre of murals to address social inequality toward African Americans in the early 1940s, after she arrived in Chicago.  By the mid-1940s, her style became increasingly abstract, and took on a neo-primitivist feel, appropriating symbolism from many diverse cultures in an effort to communicate more universally.  This turn in style has caused her work to be associated (in retrospect) with the Abstract Expressionists of the late 1940s and early 1950s.  

In 1946, Streat added another dimension to her work: dance.  Her multi-dimensional performances and exhibits were the first of their kind, with Streat performing modern dance movements in front of paintings she had done that were thematically associated.

Faith in an Ultimate Freedom takes the viewer through the life and artistic career of this amazingly-gifted artist chronologically.  It is insightful and inspirational.  The exhibition is accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalog, available for download and in printed format.