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Mickalene Thomas / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York Courtesy The Artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong

Mickalene Thomas Featured In Smithsonian Magazine

If you have any interest in the art world, we’ll assume you already know who Mickalene Thomas is. But for those who don’t know, the 40-something N African-American Yale-trained artist was recently featured in Smithsonian Magazine so we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to introduce her work to folks looking to be enlightened.

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Thomas specializes in collage portraits. She’s responsible for this stunning Solange artwork you probably have seen. She’s called her methods,
“reclaiming canonized images of beauty and reinterpreting them.” The photo at the top is Thomas’ take on Édouard Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (The Luncheon on the Grass), which she titles Le déjeuner sur l’herbe: Les Trois Femmes Noires (The Three Black Women).

“These women are so grounded and perfectly comfortable in their own space,” says Catharina Manchanda, a curator at the Seattle Art Museum, where it’s currently being exhibited. “While we might be looking at them, they are also sizing us up.”

Thomas’ portraits primarily feature black women— who she calls her muses. Thomas’ collage work features a combination of rendering based on her studio photographs of her subjects, memories of her childhood, pop culture and classical art.

“By portraying real women with their own unique history, beauty and background, I’m working to diversify the representations of black women in art,” Thomas tells Smithsonian.

In addition to her portrait work, Thomas has also directed the HBO documentary, Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Woman.

“What’s happening in art and history right now is the validation and agency of the black female body,” she says. “We do not need permission to be present.”

Check out more of her work when you continue.

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