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Muse: Mickalene Thomas
Mickalene Thomas, known for her large-scale, multitextured and rhinestone-encrusted paintings of domestic interiors and portraits, identifies the photographic image as a defining touchstone for her practice. Thomas began to photograph herself and her mother as a student at Yale, studying under David Hilliard—a pivotal experience for her as an artist. This volume is the first to gather together her various approaches to photography, including portraits, collages, Polaroids and other processes. The work is a personal act of deconstruction and reappropriation. Working primarily in her studio, Thomas' portraits draw equally from memories of her mother, 1970s black-is-beautiful images of women such as supermodel Beverly Johnson and actress Vonetta McGee, Édouard Manet's odalisque figures and the mise-en-scène studio portraiture of James Van Der Zee and Malick Sidibé. The interior space of her studio, a reappearing character in many of her photographs and paintings, frequently takes on as much of a performative role as her models do. The space exudes a thick, cozy physicality from its layers of fur, rugs, wood paneling and multipatterned linoleum tiles—all of which are richly laden with sensory triggers of a 1970s American rumpus room.
Born in Camden, New Jersey, in 1971, Mickalene Thomas earned her BFA in painting at Pratt Institute in 2000 and an MFA at the Yale University School of Art in 2002. Thomas participated in residencies at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, 2000–3, and at the Versailles Foundation Munn Artists Program, Giverny, France, 2011. Her work has been included in countless exhibitions worldwide, including at La Conservera, Ceutí, Spain (2009); National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC (2010); Hara Museum, Tokyo (2011); Santa Monica Museum of Art, California (2012); and Brooklyn Museum (2012–13). She is represented by Lehmann Maupin in New York, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, Kavi Gupta in Chicago and Galerie Nathalie Obadia in Paris.
Featured image is reproduced from Mickalene Thomas: Photographs.
PRAISE AND REVIEWS
Muse, a book of portraits by Mickalene Thomas, the artist known for exploring African American female identity, puts the '70s on glorious display: Woman pose amid shag carpets, wood paneling, and leopard-skin throws.
The New Yorker
The painter's irresistible photographs mix blaxploitation sass with art-historical references... Audaciously kitschy, pointedly celebratory, and not to be missed.
A luscious portfolio that is almost classical in its settings and gestures and yet also startlingly unrestrained.
FROM THE ARTBOOK BLOG
CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 2/16/2016
"The moment I started photographing my mother was the moment my work completely changed," Mickalene Thomas is quoted in Aperture's stellar new release collecting the artist's photographic portraits, self-portraits and collage works. Vivid, sensual and direct, this long-awaited monograph/artist's book features die-cut pages designed to highlight certain details of the artworks on either side and a zine-like newsprint insert with works by artists who have inspired Thomas' practice—from Latoya Ruby Frazier to Malick Sidibé to Carrie Mae Weems, who contributes an interview. Featured photograph, of Thomas' mother and most important muse, is "Sandra: She's a Beauty #2" (2012). continue to blog
FROM THE ARTBOOK BLOG
CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 2/17/2016
"The amazing thing that you've done, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, is that you've stepped out and reclaimed an extraordinary space for black women to live in," Carrie Mae Weems says to Mickalene Thomas in an interview published in Aperture's new monograph. "You work with historical references, whether we're talking about art-historical references or Jet magazine and centerfolds, or pinups, or the sublime nude. All of those things that come up when we decide we're going to look at the body as opposed to thinking about the pathology of the body, which is how blackness has been considered for the most part. Blackness, homosexuality, and otherness—they've been considered as a kind of illness. The thing that the work does so brilliantly, beautifully and importantly is that it usurps the power of all of those strategies that have heretofore hindered us, and gives us a sort of strength and a power to move forward under our own conditions. You've used all of what you know and all of art history to turn art history upon its head, as opposed to reinserting the black body into art history." Featured image is "Don't Forget About Me (Keri)" (2009). continue to blog
FROM THE ARTBOOK BLOG
CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 2/18/2016
"Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe: Les trois femmes noires" (2010) is reproduced from Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs. "Could a man have made these images? No, not my images. Men make many images of women that seem distant and detached. I like to think that my love of and attraction to women is represented in my photographs and paintings. I believe that there's a different gaze of woman-on-woman love that is well beyond the notion of exploitation. There is sexuality and all those beautiful things about a woman that turn me on. I have a deep desire and sensuality for women that's inescapable. So perhaps I'm just as guilty as a man for my reasons for wanting to look at, photograph, and paint women. But most of the women that I'm working with are very comfortable with what they're doing, how they want to express themselves. I look at it as a collaboration. I want them to be themselves." continue to blog