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Museum Exhibition

L'Ecole des Beaux Art...
Mickalene Thomas: Femme au divan II

July 5 – August 31, 2014

museum exhibition

George Eastman House
Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Woman

June 20 – October 19, 2014

Artist Project

Mickalene Thomas
Decópolis: The Talent of Others

February 6 - 24, 2013
The Proposition, New York

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Artist Bio

Mickalene Thomas

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Ocula

December 20, 2016

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Artomity

December 15, 2016

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What Happens When Artists Take Over an Upper East Side Mansion W Magazine

April 5 2016

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Mickalene Thomas on Muses, Models, and Mentors Interview Magazine

March 10 2016

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‘Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs’ and ‘Tête-à-Tête’What to See in New York Art Galleries This Week New York Times

February 11 2016

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Mickalene Thomas on Her Photographic Muses Vogue

February 6 2016

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Kindred spirits: Mickalene Thomas' collaborative photography at Aperture Wallpaper* Magazine

February 2 2016

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In Mickalene Thomas’s awe-inspiring portraits, a meaningful reflection of black women in art New York Times

January 29 2016

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Tour Mickalene Thomas's Brooklyn Townhouse Vogue

January 6 2016

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Panel Discussion including Mickalene Thomas Art Basel Miami Beach 2015

December 3 2015

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Mickalene Thomas Receives 2015 United States Artist Fellowship Award

November 10 2015

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Beautiful Photos Of Women Take On Stereotypes Through High Art Refinery29

November 4 2015

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The New York Times

July 18, 2014

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Time Out New York

July 7, 2014

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Interview Magazine

June 26, 2014

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Huffington Post

June 26, 2014

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New York Observer / Gallerist NY

June 20, 2014

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American Art

Spring 2014

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Vogue

February 17, 2014

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The New York Times

June 14, 2013

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Phaidon

June 13, 2013

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Whitewall

June 12, 2013

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Artspace

June 7, 2013

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Wallpaper* Brooklyn queen of bling Mickalene Thomas bedazzles with her rhinestone-studded canvases

June 2013

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ARTnews

April 2013

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Opening Ceremony

March 20, 2013

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Artforum

February 14, 2013

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ICA Boston Mickalene Thomas

December 12, 2012 - April 7, 2013

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ANP Quarterly

Vol 2 / No 7

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The Wall Street Journal

November 23, 2012

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The New Yorker

November 12, 2012

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Financial Times Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe, Brooklyn Museum, New York

November 7, 2012

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The New York Observer

November 5, 2012

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Artforum

November 2012

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Modern Painters

October 2012

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Brooklyn Museum, NY Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe

28 September – 20 January 2012

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The New York Times

September 28, 2012

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The Wall Street Journal

September 27, 2012

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The Wall Street Journal

September 24, 2012

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The New York Times

September 21, 2012

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Time Out New York

September 13-19, 2012

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W Magazine

September 2012

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Vogue

September 2012

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New York Magazine

August 27, 2012

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Art Review

May 31, 2012

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Artinfo

May 15, 2012

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Huffington Post

April 25, 2012

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Los Angeles Times

April 21, 2012

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The New York Times

March 30, 2012

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Artforum

December 31, 2011

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Artforum

December 1, 2011

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Velvet Magazine

October 31, 2011

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The New York Times

October 20, 2011

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Loop 21

October 18, 2011

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The New Yorker

October 7, 2011

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The Village Voice

October 5, 2011

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Photograph Magazine

October 5, 2011

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Whitewall

September 29, 2011

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Artinfo

September 26, 2011

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Arude

September 13, 2011

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Modern Painters

August 31, 2011

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Paper

August 31, 2011

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Bomb

May 31, 2011

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Bomb Video Mickalene Thomas: Behind the Scenes

Summer 2011

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Life and Times

May 23, 2011

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Art in America

February 17, 2011

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Artnews

December 31, 2010

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NBC Washington

August 22, 2010

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A Sky Filled With Shooting Stars

July 29, 2010

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V Magazine In The Flesh

April 30, 2010

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New York Observer A Window on Art: Mickalene Thomas' Shiny Sex-Appeal Paintings

April 26, 2010

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Weltkunst

January 31, 2010

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NY Arts

August 31, 2009

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Time Out New York

April 23, 2009

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Artforum

April 20, 2009

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The New York Times

April 12, 2009

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Nylon

March 31, 2009

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Art + Auction In the Studio

February 28, 2009

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Bomb Number 107 / Spring 2009

February 28, 2009

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Wynwood

November 30, 2008

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Wound Issue 4 / Autumn 2008

September 30, 2008

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Trace

March 31, 2008

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Whitewall

December 31, 2007

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Modern Painters

November 30, 2007

Vogue

February 17, 2014

Artist Mickalene Thomas on Her Film Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Woman, Her Mother, and Creativity
By: Thessaly La Force


I first met Mickalene Thomas at Jay Z’s video shoot for Picasso Baby in July 2013. She was laughing, dancing, and having a great time. I’ve long been an admirer of her work—splendid portraits of femininity, like this black-and-white photograph of her mother sitting across a couch in a pose not dissimilar to Manet’s Olympia, her silk robe slightly open, her gaze fearless and unflinching. Next week, HBO will debut a short documentary Thomas made about her mother, Sandra Bush—or Mama Bush, as she’s often referred to in Thomas’s work. Their relationship was not always easy—Bush battled marital troubles, bad health, dashed dreams, and addiction. Thomas filmed Bush at the end of her life, and the result is a touching and honest portrait of her muse. Below is an edited version of a recent conversation I had with Thomas about her film, her art, and her mother.


This film premiered at your solo show at the Brooklyn Museum in September 2012. Your mother, who was still alive then, had a chance to watch it, didn’t she?


She was there and died two months later, just shortly after Hurricane Sandy—she died November 7, 2012. But she was able to see the film, which was great. She loved it. She sat at the opening, in the room I built for the exhibition, and her only disappointment was that I didn’t airbrush out her wrinkles. She said she looked old. I was like, “Mom, I’m not going to do that!” Everything else she gave the thumbs up.


What was it like filming your mother?


It was cathartic. It allowed me to resolve issues as a human being, as a daughter. And it’s important for me as an artist because I use my mother in my work—I have since 2000—so it seemed like the next step when I learned she was dying. It made sense to me. When I photographed her in my studio, we always talked, we had conversations, but they were never recorded, they were just for us. This was different. I wanted people to really know her. How did she get to this point? What was her story? I’m interested in beyond hello. And I wanted to learn about my mother as a person—to separate from my relationship to her as her daughter—and look at her as the human being she was.


But I also wanted some of my questions answered. And I’ll say, for first-time filmmakers, I think interviewing your parents should be a requirement. It was something I needed to do in order to move on. I’ve made so much about her—I was really afraid that my creative spark would stop—that’s also why.


Really? Has it?


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.


Is this emotional for you to discuss?


You know, the emotion—it comes in my art. The kind of person I am, I can deal with things, and I do and I can, but I’m not a crier. I am around certain people, but I don’t show that side to many people, and I never have. It comes out in my work. All of the things I’m going through and dealing with—that’s why my art has always been from a personal space, it’s the way I entered art from the beginning. I started making art with art therapy. It’s what I know how to do. I got a lot of criticism for that when I was in school. But I think it works for me. As Frida Kahlo said, “I paint my own reality.”


And let’s talk about your mother. She was so charismatic on screen!


She was amazing. She was was a force. I try to explain that to people, that’s why I wanted to do this film, I knew I was doing this big show, and I really wanted to articulate visually where the work was coming from. I photographed my mother for many years and painted her, and I wanted people to see the source: It’s my mother. I pulled everything I am and do from her, she was a fierce human being—such magnetism and energy, even when she was sick—you saw her: She looked good, she got made up, she wanted to present herself. That was a strength she always carried. And I’ve always coveted and loved and admired and adored that about her, despite me being her daughter, despite how complicated our relationship was. I may have hated her sometimes because she wasn’t the person I wanted her to be, but I loved her stature, I loved her strength—through the end.


And when she explains what it means to be the subject of your art—how her own dreams to be a star, to be a model were fulfilled, what it meant for her. That was heartbreaking.

 

That brought tears to my eyes. It was never spoken, I never even considered—until she told me—that I was helping her fulfill a dream. I was like, You stupid, stupid person. I never really imagined until then—I was like, Wow, is that what I’m doing? Is that why I became an artist? Life is so strange, the universe is so powerful. It’s a testament to how connected we are to one another without even knowing it. I just sat there, tears rolling down my face, listening to her say that. No, I never knew that, it never dawned on me. That’s why I made the film that way, it brings you in; I let the story slowly unravel. You finally see that she does fulfill her dream, despite all of the things that happened to her. That made me very happy.


Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Woman premieres on HBO next Monday, February 24, at 9:00 p.m. EST.