The Seductive and Subversive Art of Mickalene Thomas
Over the past decade, African-American artist, photographer, and filmmaker Mickalene Thomas has experienced tremendous success. Her collage-like paintings include such materials as rhinestones, enamel, sequins, and glitter, and have been very desirable to both museums and collectors. Her subjects are almost always black women, and her compositions are inspired by the works of classical European artists such as Edouard Manet, Gustave Courbet, and Francisco de Goya. This ironic appropriation could be her way of rewriting the so-called white-male–dominated history of art. Thomas’ portraits empower black women and celebrate their culture and beauty. The assertive and unapologetic poses of her subjects also exaggerate the female gaze. Thomas’ mother, Sandra “Mama Bush” Bush, was a recurring model, subject, and muse until she died in 2012. Another important aspect of Thomas’ works is her interiors, which she considers another part of the collage. Their styles reflect the 1970s domestic aesthetic—inspired by The Practical Encyclopedia of Good Decorating and Home Improvement she came across at Goodwill, and refers to when creating these settings, and because they are similar to the surroundings in which she grew up. Thomas’ works are held in collections all over the world.