An Evening—and a Few Months—with Mickalene Thomas

Group contemplating "Portrait of Mnonja," 2010, rhinestone acrylic and enamel on wood panel, by Mickalene Thomas, born Camden NJ 1971. Photo via WIKIMEDIA/FOUR SQUARE

Artist Mickalene Thomas is known for large scale canvases incorporating rhinestones into colorful images of black women frankly regarding the viewer. On her website, she describes exploring “a complex vision of what it means to be a woman.”

She told that “It’s okay if the viewer doesn’t understand the relationship I have with my muses. I’m queer, but it’s not always necessary to read my work as ‘Oh, Mickalene’s a queer woman.’”

But don’t take our word for it. Go sit in on a stimulating conversation Friday evening between Thomas herself and Lisa Melandri, executive director of the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, which is currently hosting an exhibition of her work; and Simon Kelly, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Saint Louis Art Museum, where her photography is on display.

CAM’s latest exhibition, Mickalene Thomas: Mentors, Muses, and Celebrities, runs through the end of this year. It includes her works in film, video, photography, and installation. The exhibition features a two-channel video, Do I Look Like a Lady?, that examines power through gender and language with footage of icons like Jackie “Moms” Mabley, Wanda Sykes, Whitney Houston, and Eartha Kitt. She’s also transformed the main galleries into 70s-style lounges that recall her own youth.

The exhibition at CAM is free. The talk at SLAM, at 7 p.m. Friday in the Farrell Auditorium, is $20.

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