Messing Up Ideas Of Beauty: The Queen Of Afro-Kitsch, Mickalene Thomas Challenges Us All

Mickalene Thomas - rhinestones, acrylic, enamel, oil on wood  Mickalene Thomas - rhinestones, acrylic, enamel, oil on wood Mickalene Thomas - rhinestones, acrylic, enamel, oil on wood Mickalene Thomas - rhinestones, acrylic, enamel, oil on wood

Mickalene Thomas arranges collages, stages photographs, places rhinestones, directs art films and layers up oil and acrylic paint, all in the name of beauty and feminism. Her glittering artworks are a homage to black culture, cubism, portraiture, ideas of the still life and what it is to be a woman. Initially inviting women into her studio and coercing an energy out of them, she aims to represent these ladies as “beautiful, sexual, desirable, stylish and fierce”. (Source) Thomas says she, as well as other black women have had to consider this question of beauty often:

Beauty has always been an element of discussion for black women, whether or not we were the ones having the conversation. We’ve had to contend with the element of our hair. Beauty pros and cons have changed the world of how we perceive each other. Some people go to great lengths to bleach themselves to conform to the norm, the whiteness, and all the complexities. (Source)

Thomas’ artwork is an exploration of how one presents themselves – the images we create of ourselves, how we chop and change our appearance, and why. She has been involved in a couple of different projects lately as well. Including designing pop star Solange Knowles’ EP cover and airing her directorial debut on HBO called “Happy Birthday To A Beautiful Woman” earlier this year. This art film is a kind of love letter to her mother – and an extension of her research into women and their identity. While her work is undeniably beautiful and luscious on the surface, she is concerned more with what that exterior is hiding. Thomas says:

I am drawn to objects and people that have undergone some kind of a hardship. They are beautiful and there is an artifice to them, but if you dig deeper, there’s another layer. (Source)

Mickalene Thomas - rhinestones, acrylic, enamel, oil on wood Mickalene Thomas - rhinestones, acrylic, enamel, oil on woodMickalene Thomas - rhinestones, acrylic, enamel, oil on wood Mickalene Thomas - rhinestones, acrylic, enamel, oil on wood Mickalene Thomas - rhinestones, acrylic, enamel, oil on wood Mickalene Thomas - rhinestones, acrylic, enamel, oil on wood

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