The dazzling mixed-media works of Mickalene Thomas (b. 1971) combine rhinestones with acrylic and oil paints to create compositions that often reference iconic works of art from nineteenth-century Europe. In her reimagined renderings, the artist replaces the European subjects with powerful and glamorous African American women, inviting questions about conventional beauty, racial identity, and the traditional art historical narrative.
Thomas first became interested in creating a dialogue with progressive nineteenth-century artists such as Claude Monet, Édouard Manet, and Gustave Courbet after completing an artist’s residency at Monet’s home in Giverny, France, in 2011. During her time in Giverny, Thomas was influenced by the realization that Monet had carefully appointed his residence and gardens to create the ideal creative retreat. The collage effect apparent in Thomas’s Giverny landscapes and interiors mirrors Monet’s desire to piece together spaces as individual sites of inspiration. This exhibition presents a selection of collages and mixed-media paintings inspired by Thomas’s time in Giverny that throws the continued relevance and influence of the nineteenth-century father of Impressionism into new relief.
Mickalene Thomas is a native of Camden, New Jersey, who currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She earned her BFA from the Pratt Institute and her MFA from Yale University. Her work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Santa Monica Museum of Art, and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, as well as numerous gallery shows.