Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mona Lisa in Black

Leonardo's Mona Lisa is probably the world's most famous painting. It hangs in the Louvre, and draws countless thousands of visitors to the museum every day.  Numerous artists have been inspired by this work, and have created their own art using Mona Lisa's image.

Ealy Mays is one of these artists.  He has teamed up with the Paris bookstore Mona Lisait (which means "Mona read " [past tense]) for an exposition of several of his Mona Lisa-inspired works.  These works are part of a series of paintings that he has christened "Mama."

Caribbean Mama (Is There Life on Mars?)
2010, Oil on canvas
© Discover Paris!

Mona Lisa Likes Pancakes
2010, Oil on canvas
© Discover Paris!

Yellow Mama Lisa
2010, Oil on canvas
© Discover Paris!

Mays is a Texas native and long-time Paris resident. He is a prolific painter, and has produced at least ten works that in some way make reference to Mona Lisa.  Many works from his "Mama" series also feature Aunt Jemima, either alongside Mona Lisa or alone.  Mays does not hesitate to include elements from previous series of his in current paintings - an example is the blue watermelon from his "Blue Watermelon" series in Yellow Mama Lisa.

Social commentary through art is a prominent feature of Mays' oeuvre.  His painting Obama in Paris is a prime example of this:

 Obama in Paris
2008, Oil on canvas
Image courtesy of Ealy Mays

Obama is seen in the lower register of the painting, looking upward.  The kiosk bears colorful images of Paul Colin's famous portrayal of Josephine Baker in her banana skirt, the Banania man, Aunt Jemima, a self-portrait of Beauford Delaney, a photograph of Alexandre Dumas, père, and other persons or objects relevant to black history and culture.

For a close-up view of this painting, click here. (Prints are available from Dorothy's Gallery.)

Mays has a studio on rue Christine in the 6th arrondissement, and paints at the Cité International des Arts on rue de l'Hôtel de Ville in the 4th arrondissement every summer. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New York Guggenheim are among the world-renowned museums that have displayed his works.

 Ealy Mays
© Discover Paris!

Joe Langley filmed the vernissage (the opening of the exposition) on June 15, 2010.   Click here to see the video.

To see the current exposition at Mona Lisait, visit the store at:
6, rue Danton
75005 Paris
Tel: 01 43 29 57 72 
Metro: Odéon - Saint Michel

The expo will hang until August 31, 2010.

To see an online gallery of Mays' work, visit his blog at or his MySpace page at


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  Entrée to Black Paris is a Discover Paris! blog.

1 comment:

Bonnie Way aka the Koala Mom said...

Fascinating. I like the variety of "mona lisas" and the play on words for the bookstore name. A bookstore is also a cool place for an art exhibit.