I love celebrating great art, and nothing excites me more than seeing artists comment on LGBT issues through their artwork. One such artist is Mickalene Thomas.
Thomas is an artist based in New York, and she is best known for her work portraying same-sex desires of women adorned in acrylic paint and rhinestones. Born in Camden, New Jersey in 1971, Thomas was raised by her mother Sandra aka “Mama Bush” who exposed Thomas and her brother to art by enrolling them in after-school programs at the Newark Museum. Unfortunately, Thomas’ relationship with her mother was strained during her teenage years, as most mother-daughter relationships are. But Thomas was sorting out her sexuality while dealing with her parents’ drug addiction.
While Thomas was attending school in Portland, Oregon, she found inspiration in the DIY artists of the area. And in 1994, Thomas attended a Carrie Mae Weems show, which Thomas described as “familiar and transformative”. This experience led Thomas to address her own issues of identity, sexuality and blackness. Swept up by Weems’ work, Thomas decided to switch studies and transferred to Pratt Institute back in New York.
Her work may be reminiscent of 70’s blaxploitation, but I believe Thomas distinguishes herself from that style by her use of softer colors and “real” women in her pictures. In addition to that, the way she structures some of her artwork captures the the breakdown of the rest of society when it comes to accepting real, feminine women with same-sex attraction.
Thomas has been recognized with several awards and prizes including but not limited to the BOMB Magazine Honor, MoCADA Artistic Advocacy Award, Anonymous Was a Woman Grant and the Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant.