How much do I love Mickalene Thomas? Let me count the ways. Thomas’s work is the definition of a visual FEAST. The way that she mixes and layers materials and imagery to create a visual language that is so distinct and powerful makes her one of the most iconic artists working today.

Thomas creates collage-inspired paintings adorned with rhinestones, glitter and vibrant colors, exploring themes relating black female identity, sexuality and celebrity.

What drives her work is a sustained interest in depicting the black woman’s relationship to art history and contemporary culture at large.

I read in an article, “While in school, Thomas was profoundly affected by the absence of strong Black women throughout the history of art. Using the aesthetics of Western painting and the sexualized blaxploitation films of the 1970s, Thomas has dedicated her practice to expanding the representation of women in art…

… In a striking amalgam of painting, photography and collage, Thomas alludes to a number of time periods and genres. While her art historical references often trace back to the 19th century, her use of fabrics and domestic spaces often reference the 1960s–80s — a time during which many women, particularly African American women, rejected and redefined traditional standards of beauty." 

I find Thomas to be so inspiring because the execution of her vision is so powerfully demonstrated through the command that she has over her materials and subject matter. 

Photo credit: Dana Scruggs