A Detroit Doctor Who Collects Art and Loathes Labels

Show Us Your Walls
By Steve Friess
Lorna Thomas in her Detroit home, with one of her many Richard Mayhew paintings over the mantel and “Sheila” (1978), by Benny Andrews, at far right.
DETROIT — Lorna Thomas thought she knew a thing or two about art from her classes at Wellesley College in the 1960s. But after graduation, she discovered the world of African-American-owned galleries. “All of a sudden, the light went on, and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, we have this entire body of work out here that should be celebrated,’” she recalled. She began the celebration soon afterward. Dr. Thomas, a dermatologist, a member of the ninth generation of a Detroit family and a descendant of freed slaves, began her collection with a Richard Mayhew landscape. She bought it at a downtown Detroit gallery in 1980 for $4,300 on a two-year installment plan. [More]
“Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden,” left, by Robert Freeman, and a 1987 portrait of Dr. Thomas’s son, Buzz, by Artis Lane
A Mayhew landscape, “Spiritual Retreat” (2002), from Dr. Thomas’s collection.Credit...