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Mickalene Thomas

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Mickalene Thomas

American, b. 1971
Pratt Institute (BFA); Yale University (MFA)

Born in Camaden, NJ, Mickalene Thomas began her art education at a young age through afterschool programs in New York. She went on to study at Pratt University and earned her MFA at the Yale Univeristy School of Art in 2002. She has completed residencies at The Studio Museum in Harlem and at the Versailles Foundation Munn Artists Program in Giverny, France. The artist is now based in Brooklyn, New York. Thomas works in several mediums, including photography, sculptural installation, film, and video, but she is best known for her elaborate paintings that include elements of collage. Inspired by the art and aesthetics of 1970s America, Thomas incorporates rhinestones and bold patterns into her works.

Thomas' works are filled with art historical references as she places black, female subjects into the art historical canon. She draws inspiration from artists such a Edouard Manet, Henri Matisse, Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, and Carrie Mae Weems. Through these references, combined with elements of pop culture, Thomas examines the history and current state of beauty in relation to gender and race. Although the black, female subject is absent from "Interior: Zebra with Two Chains and Funky Fur," the print could be considered a non-figurative portrait, suggesting that a subject's environment is just as indicative of their identity as their face. Tandem Press, with whom Thomas created this print, states:

"We created the print [Interior: Zebra with Two Chains and Funky Fur] with Mickalene in 2013 during her visit to Tandem Press [the edition of the print was completed in 2014]. "Interior" is composed of 57 different elements that were all printed separately, carefully and exactly cut out to specific shapes, and collaged together to create the final image. Many printmaking methods were included in the production of the print, including etching, lithography, relief, and archival inkjet prints as well as hand-painted media including enamel paint, colored pencil, and gold leaf. It took two of our master printers and several studio assistants almost six months to complete the edition; it really is a feat for contemporary printmaking!"

Thomas has been shown in several major exhibitions, including: "Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe", Brooklyn Museum (2012-2013) and Santa Monica Museum of Art (2012); "Mickalene Thomas", The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2012); "Mama Bush: One of a Kind Two", The Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (2011); "30 Americans", the Cocoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. (2011); "American Now", National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C. (2010); and "Something You Can Feel", La Conservera Art Centre, Ceuti, Spain (2009). Her most recent exhibtion, "Do I Look Like a Lady?" is currently on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

She has been awarded multiple prizes and grants, including the Brooklyn Museum Asher B. Durand Award (2012), Timerhi Award for Leadership in the Arts (2010), Joan Mitchell Grant and Pratt Institute Alumni Achievement Award (both 2009), and Rema Hort Mann Grant (2007). In 2015, she was named a United States Artists Fellow. Her works have been collected by the Art Institute of Chicago, The Studio Museum, MoMA, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and The Whitney Museum of American Art. She is represented by Lehmann Maupin in New York, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects and Galerie Nathalie Obadia in Paris.

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