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Mickalene Thomas
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2009

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C-Print 24 x 30 inches

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    Ships From: New York, NY
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About the Artist

Mickalene Thomas

Although she’s best known for her vibrant and textural collage portraits of Black women, contemporary artist Mickalene Thomas is in fact a master of many mediums, including photography, video, sculpture and printmaking. Born in Camden, New Jersey, and raised by her mother, a fashion model, Thomas enrolled in after-school art classes at the Newark Museum of Art in Newark, New Jersey, and the Henry Street Settlement in New York City as a child. Later, she would earn fine art degrees from Pratt Institute and Yale University.

Inspired in part by her strong, matriarchal upbringing and her own identity as a queer Black woman, Thomas focuses on female power, beauty and sexuality in her works. She cites a 1990s-era exhibition of Carrie Mae Weems’s work at the Portland Art Museum in Oregon as being critically important to her becoming an artist. In her work, Thomas commonly pulls from the art history canon, riffing frequently on the styles and compositions of early modernists such as Gustave Courbet, Édouard Manet and Henri Matisse, as well as more contemporary artists like Romare Bearden and David Hockney. She recontextualizes their paintings by restaging them with Black subjects, using signature materials like rhinestones, enamel and acrylic paint to profound effect. Relatedly, for a collaboration with Dior, Thomas reinvented the house’s iconic Bar jacket and Lady Dior handbag to become, essentially, wearable Claude Monet landscapes.

Thomas also investigates the idea of Black celebrity in her work, painting portraits of such Black icons as Whitney Houston, Oprah Winfrey and Eartha Kitt. In 2008, Thomas painted the first individual silkscreen portrait of then–First Lady Michelle Obama, which was exhibited for the first time in the National Portrait Gallery’s “Americans Now” show.

Thomas’s work can be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Brooklyn Museum of Art, among others. She has received such accolades as the Timerhi Award for Leadership in the Arts in 2010, the Brooklyn Museum Asher B. Durand Award in 2012 and the Anonymous Was a Woman Award in 2013. In 2015, Thomas was named a USA Francie Bishop Good & David Horvitz Fellow.

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