By Christine Snyder

Mickalene Thomas is this week’s featured artist in honor of Black History Month!  Mickalene is a contemporary artist based in Brooklyn, NY whose work explores feminist issues such as beauty standards, power, sexuality, black beauty, and the representation of women in pop culture.  Not only does her famous and gorgeous work inspire artists, feminists, and women, but her ingenuity and principles make her a role model for all.  

Mickalene’s art ranges from painting and collage to photography and installation.  She has been inspired by several artistic and cultural periods and uses her talent to depict women in classic poses while confronting the objectification of women.  Her portrait paintings redefine beauty standards, and her collages of fractured interiors chip away at traditional gender roles. 

Mickalene’s ingenuity is exhibited in her use of unconventional materials.  While the rhinestones adorning her art are a symbol of femininity and societal expectations, they are also a result of needing to procure affordable art supplies.  While in art school, Mickalene was often unable to regularly purchase paint, but she could afford to buy craft supplies such as felt, rhinestones, and other media.  Not only did this innovative approach ensure that she could afford to pursue her art education, but it became the impetus for a signature style and conceptual element in her work.  What a great example of resourcefulness, creativity, and never giving up!

One of Mickalene’s guiding principles is for young black girls to see themselves represented in her work.  As an aspiring artist, Mickalene herself was inspired by art that depicted black individuals, because she wasn’t accustomed to seeing people who looked like her in artistic environments like museums.  Not only are black women represented in Mickalene’s paintings, they are portrayed as beautiful, powerful, and transformative.  

Mickalene’s work is aesthetically pleasing and inspiring.  The colors and mixing of patterns touch upon fashion and interior design and add to the composition without distracting from the focal point.  As an art enthusiast, I appreciate the references to the classic paintings of earlier art movements with a modern, feminist twist.  The rhinestone details are nostalgic of a childhood playing dress up while also being almost a parody of the modern day jewelry store commercials and the “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” stereotype.  Her work is conceptual and pretty, which is hard to pull off.  My favorite thing about this talented artist is her commitment to empowering youth and women.  I believe we’ll be seeing a lot more of her!



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