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Art Index: Mickalene Thomas

The artists June brings! As we enter the beginning of a new month it is important to acknowledge and give flowers to the creative faces and spaces that inspire the prideful season of originality, self-expression, freedom and Queer representation.

New York-based artist Mickalene Thomas (Born in 1971), is one of these representative bodies that pushes forth the creative agenda and reflects internal and relatable themes within their work. On the journey to becoming one of the most influential and unique queer artists we have today, Thomas began in the year 2000 by receiving her B.F.A. from Pratt Institute and followed up with a consistent roster of artistic works that flooded gallery halls.

The scale of Thomas’s work is expansive and showcased in galleries and museums such as the Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris (2022); Levy Gorvy, New York, London, Pairs and Hong Kong (2021); the Baldwin Gallery, Aspen, CO (2019); The Bass Museum of Art, The Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD (2019); Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, LA (2019); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2016); Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (2011); and La Conservera Contemporary Art Centre, Ceutí, Spain (2009) etc. (para. 2)”. The heavy push to view Thomas’s work is in great demand, shining light on the uniqueness of her work and the relatable themes many find within them.

Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe: Les Trois Femmes Noires (2010). Courtesy of Mickalene Thomas & The Globe and Mail.

Mickalene Thomas combines the boldest of mediums and transforms the images of Black femme bodies into some of the most unique portraits that have gifted us over the past of decade. Thomas’s work stands out in all of its aspects, with a noticeably inspired freedom one can see the elements of acrylic, enamel and rhinestone fuse together to create abstract harmony. Thomas reflects in her work the psychedelic beauty of blackness and what that looks like against vibrant pop backgrounds, truly capturing the essence of what it is to simply be and find peace within that existence. Thomas’s inspiration behind why she approaches her portraits the way she does is due to the images of her mother from the 1970s that captured an era of power, love, fight and embrace. This representative figure of the mother/matriarch is one many are familiar with despite the background which makes the emotions felt through the image universal. This not being the only theme as Mickalene Thomas consistently sets out to expand the boundaries of what sexuality is and what it looks like and the faces that encompass the wide umbrella of attraction.

A Little Taste Outside of Love (2007). Courtesy of Mickalene Thomas & The Brooklyn Museum

Mickalene Thomas is a modern-day Renaissance visionary, she takes the typical narrative of a lounging woman who would usually decorate undiversified halls and replaces her with the warm mahogany presence of a Black woman. This imagery alone speaks volumes to the height Thomas holds as a Black woman herself and those of the same demographic. Thomas is preaching self-love, self-embrace, lust and sexuality all through the pop images that formulate from her mind. She does all of this while simultaneously creating a safe space in her work that inspires many like her and those who understand her cause.



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