Thomas’s work stems from her study of art history and the classical genres of portraiture, landscape, and still life, and is inspired by a wide range of sources, from Hudson River School landscapes to Henri Matisse’s nudes and Romare Bearden’s collages. Although her paintings often reference the familiar compositional arrangements of odalisque paintings, Thomas imbues her subjects with an agency and action seldom seen in the canon of figurative painting. Portrait of Mnonja is a stunning example of Thomas’s recent work. The reclining figure is posed in a sassy contrapposto and situated against a wood-paneled background redolent of a seventies-era living room. She wears a loose-fitting white blouse with a plunging neckline, and her hair is pulled back in a low bun. Her right hand rests on her knee, revealing nail polish that matches her audacious pink heels. She exudes dignity and self-assurance.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2011
Mickalene Thomas explores notions of beauty, sexuality, and black female identity in her work. She is inspired by a wide range of sources, from Hudson River School landscapes to Henri Matisse’s nudes and Romare Bearden’s collages. Thomas is one of many contemporary artists experimenting with nontraditional materials. For her, the rhinestones evoke folk art traditions and Haitian voodoo art. They also serve as a metaphor for female beauty products, which can both enhance and mask a woman’s identity.
Smithsonian American Art Museum: Commemorative Guide. Nashville, TN: Beckon Books, 2015.
Portrait of Mnonja
- 96 x 120 in. (243.8 x 304.8 cm)
© 2010, Mickalene Thomas
- Credit Line
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment
- Mediums Description
- rhinestones, acrylic, and enamel on wood panel
- Ethnic – African-American
- Architecture Interior – domestic – living room
- Portrait female – Mnonja
- Object Number
- Linked Open Data
- Linked Open Data URI