Portrait of Mnonja

Media - 2011.16 - SAAM-2011.16_1 - 75736
Copied Mickalene Thomas, Portrait of Mnonja, 2010, rhinestones, acrylic, and enamel on wood panel, 96120 in. (243.8304.8 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 2011.16, © 2010, Mickalene Thomas

Artwork Details

Portrait of Mnonja
96120 in. (243.8304.8 cm)
© 2010, Mickalene Thomas
Credit Line
Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment
Mediums Description
rhinestones, acrylic, and enamel on wood panel
  • African American
  • Architecture Interior — domestic — living room
  • Portrait female — Mnonja
Object Number

Artwork Description

Mickalene Thomas covered the surface of Portrait of Mnonja with sparkling rhinestones that adorn the reclining figure's clothing, makeup, and high-heeled shoes. The colorful plastic gems are not usually found on paintings or in museums, but they are at the heart of Thomas's art.

Although she first started working with rhinestones because they were inexpensive, Thomas finds them to be the ideal material to represent the Black women who are her subjects. She loves to use an element of women's crafts that is often dismissed as unimportant.

In Mnonja, the straightforward appeal of the stones emphasizes the sitter's powerful presence and sensuality. "Beauty has always been an element of discussion for Black women," Thomas explains, "whether or not we were the ones having the conversation."


Related Posts

An illustration of a young Black artist painting a portrait. Above the text reads "I could afford yarn...glitter...rhinestones..."
Celebrating the renowned artist with a comic about her life and work