Mickalene Thomas was born in 1971 in New Jersey ; she lives and works in Brooklyn (New York).
A multidisciplinary artist among the most well-known within the contemporary art scene in the U.S., Mickalene Thomas has participated since 2003 in numerous national and international exhibitions. She is known for mixing references to art history, politics, and pop culture in order to create captivating paintings that are both figurative and non-figurative. Her work is rooted in a long study of art history and classical portraiture, into which she introduces a complex notion of femininity that questions beauty standards and aesthetic representation.
The motifs chosen by Mickalene Thomas are cut out and then freely juxtaposed during her preparatory studies, during which she also decides on the materials: silkscreen prints made in her New York studio, oil or acrylic paints, enamel, or rhinestones, which will then make up her paintings on wood panels. The multiplicity of these sources and techniques breathes great vivacity into the work of Mickalene Thomas. The vivid colors often appear in contrast to the black-and-white touches that lend an old-fashioned charm. The exuberant and almost abstract aesthetic that emerges from the paintings as well as the collages, the audacity of certain poses, and the cutting work evoke the photomontages of the Dadaists. The composite aspect of these portraits gives them a true sense of history, all while creating their own original type of mental universe, both uniquely new in their inspiration and full of cultural references. The bodies depicted here constitute a kind of meeting place for a bundle of intersecting symbols. They thereby become carriers of a political dimension, in that they appear fashioned in light of contemporary debates, history, and culture, but also by the vibrant desire of their author - let's not forget the importance of pixelized skin, which in certain works of art seems to probe as closely as possible the DNA of the model, her skin color, and her sensuality. These paintings are decoding and reassembling the socio-cultural structures of the printed matter she sourced.
Conscious of taking part in a broader movement playing out today, Mickalene Thomas goes beyond to the walls of her studio to embody the fight for feminism and for recognition of the minority groups she represents. Through frequent involvement in meetings, events, and conversations, she engages with her communities and regularly gives advice to other young women artists
Her first major solo show took place in 2012 at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City and at the Santa Monica Museum of Art in California. In 2016, Mickalene Thomas had solo shows primarily in the U.S. in places like the Aspen Art Museum as well as the MOCA Grand in Los Angeles. The following year sent her work to the Contemporary Art Museum in Saint-Louis, Missouri among others, and in 2018 her work was exhibited at a the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus and the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle (USA). The artist also enjoys many recent successes marked by several solo exhibitions: Mickalene Thomas: Black Women presented at the Contemporary Art Center of New Orleans, USA (2019) after the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Canada (2018) ; Mickalene Thomas: Better Nights at the Bass Museum in Miami, USA (2019) and Mickalene Thomas: A Moment's Pleasure, Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland, USA (2019).
She has also contributed to a large number of group exhibitions, including at the International Center of Photography in New York City, at the Museum of African Diaspora in San Francisco, at the San José Museum of Art, at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, and at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City. Additionally, since 2018 her exhibition-"Posing Modernity: the Black Model from Manet to Matisse"-can be seen in numerous museums and art centers including the Gibbes Museum of Art (North Carolina), the Museum of Fine Arts of Salt Lake City (Utah), and the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery in New York City.
Her artwork is included in the permanent collection of numerous American museums, among others the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.