Mickalene Thomas is a contemporary African-American multimedia artist who gained prominence for her vibrant collaged paintings embellished with rhinestones. Her visual vocabulary is saturated with references from Western art history, the Harlem Renaissance, and popular culture and tends to explore topics related to race, gender, and sexuality. By depicting the sitter in classic poses against abstract settings, and mostly referring to the periods of social change marked. For instance, by the second wave of feminism and the civil rights movement, Thomas reclaims the inherited representational patterns framed by patriarchy and racism. The artist therefore uses rhinestones as a symbol of femininity to accentuate this context and underline a metaphor of artifice while questioning what is femininity and what defines a woman.
Thomas received a BFA from the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY, in 2000 and an MFA from Yale University School of Art, New Haven, CT, in 2002, her works have been exhibited across the United States and abroad, and she received multiple grants and prizes.
Featured image: Mickalene Thomas - I was born to do great things, 2014 (detail). Acrylic on canvas. 60 × 84 in. 152.4 × 213.4 cm. Photo courtesy Kavi Gupta Gallery