You look around at your studio, and your studio tells you what you should be doing. That’s the magic of a strong studio practice.
– Mickalene Thomas, speaking at Aperture Gallery September 30, 2015, to discuss her forthcoming book, Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs, (view spreads from Muse) now available to order from Aperture.
“Mickalene Thomas’s brash, exuberant paintings don’t care what you think of them; they are much too busy simply — or not so simply — being themselves.
She doesn’t so much depict a universal humanity as practically force it into the viewer’s place, where it implicates, illuminates and bedazzles.
On “Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Woman,” a film she made with her mother before her mother’s death:
“It’s actually been fantastic. I’ve resolved things with her from the film and during the process of making it. I am able to really live my life and do what I need to do, to make the art that I want to make, and be the person I want to be in the world.
“When you look at death, it makes you understand the importance of the moment when you have life and death in front of you
and you witness seeing someone deteriorating in front of you—it’s an overwhelming experience. If you don’t learn from that, I don’t know what else you’re gonna learn. It’s changed my art, it’s made me reconsider a lot of the things I’ve been making. I feel like this film and my mother dying allowed me to look at myself differently as an artist and as a person. I’m excited to put it out there in the world.”
– Mickalene Thomas interview Vogue magazine
“I was listening a lot. I wanted to make so many different things and find a way toward something that I was connected to. I didn’t know what my own voice was. And, for me, it’s always about working with my hands. I’m a visual person; I have to see in order to understand.
“What’s so great is that Matisse looked at Manet. And Romare Bearden looked at Matisse and Manet. And I’m looking at all three, it’s a lineage. If you look closely at the Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe: Les Trois Femmes Noires photograph, you’ll notice the Matisse sculpture in the background. I think it’s really important that people understand my knowledge of the relationship between Matisse and Manet and the fact that Romare Bearden is a huge part of my work.”
– Mickalene Thomas Bomb magazine interview with Sean Landers
About curating Tête À Tête: “These are the artists that I think about when I work, and I think they are doing kick-ass work.”
– Mickalene Thomas, speaking at Aperture Gallery
Works from Tête À Tête on line at The New Yorker
“I think there is an innate truth,” Thomas said of her works’ resemblance to their subjects. “It describes the energy of the person more than how the person looks in front of you.
“For me that’s what is very exciting about this departure, although they’re based on black women, we’re all connected, they could be anyone. It’s not necessarily rooted in the identity of blackness or black beauty but more beauty itself and the essence of a person.”
– Mickalene Thomas quoted in Huffington Post
Her depictions of African American women explore a spectrum of black female beauty and sexual identity while constructing images femininity and power. Origin of the Universe, Thomas’s first solo museum exhibition, highlights recent bodies of work that examine interior and exterior environments in relation to the female figure. Their settings are often inspired by her 1970s childhood.
– Brooklyn Museum, Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe
Mickalene Thomas studio visit video on ArtNet News