Mickalene Thomas

American artist Mickalene Thomas set out to change the face of art history back in the early 2000s – and that’s exactly what she’s done. We take a look at Mickalene’s humble beginnings and her artistic legacy as the contemporary art powerhouse she is today.

Meet Mama Bush, the mother and muse of American artist Mickalene Thomas. In the early 2000s, as a young, ambitious art student, one of Mickalene's professors at Yale asked her to photograph someone she had a complicated relationship with – Mickalene chose to photograph her mother.

My daughter, you have made me the Mama of the art world.

Sandra Bush

As Mickalene went through art school, she started using non-traditional materials.

“It was really for me a way of looking at how many things that women do just naturally and instinctually, like sewing and putting things together, watching, you know, people in my life just use the materials and in their environment in very creative ways.”

Back in her studio, Mickalene transformed these cheap materials into grand, glorious portraits of the women in her life she loved and admired – a desperately needed antidote to mainstream visual culture.

La leçon d’amour, 2008 - from her exhibition "Muse", the series explores the artists relationship to her models.

The gaze of my work is unapologetically a Black woman's gaze loving other Black women, you know that's the gaze

Mickalene Thomas

Throughout the '00s and '10s, this signature style, along with her photography, installation and film, propelled Mickalene to the forefront of the art world and into fashion, music and popular culture, attracting collectors and collaborators including Jay-Z, Michelle Obama, Solange Knowles and Dior.

Today, Mickalene's inspiring portraits sit in galleries and museums across the world, designed to uplift the next generation of young women artists and represent the many magnificent shades of femme Black power.

‘True’ by Solange, cover art by Mickalene Thomas

Set design for the Dior 2023 show, featuring portraits of Ophelia DeVore, Helen Williams and Josephine Baker



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