MICKALENE THOMAS: THE BLACK PHOTOGRAPHERS RETHINKING WHAT HISTORY IS ALL ABOUT

APERTURE, APERTURE, February 8, 2022

In these 11 photobooks from Kwame Brathwaite to Deana Lawson, artists envision beauty and poetry, fashion and resistance

 

Muse by Mickalene Thomas, 2015

Mickalene Thomas’s large-scale, multitextured tableaux of domestic interiors and portraits subvert the male gaze and assert new definitions of beauty. Thomas first began to photograph herself and her mother as a student at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut—which became a pivotal experience in her creative expression as an artist.

 

Since then, throughout her practice, Thomas’s images have functioned as personal acts of deconstruction and reappropriation. Many of her photographs draw from a wide range of cultural icons, from 1970s “Black Is Beautiful” images of women, to Édouard Manet’s odalique figures, to the mise-en-scène studio portraiture of James Van Der Zee and Malick Sidibé. Perhaps of greatest importance, however, Thomas’s collection of portraits and staged scenes reflect a very personal community of inspiration—a collection of muses that includes herself, her mother, her friends and lovers—emphasizing the communal and social aspects of art-making and creativity that pervade her work.

 

FEBRUARY 8, 2022

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