Mickalene Thomas (American, b.1971) is a New York-based artist who is best known for her elaborate rhinestone-adorned paintings as well as her use of colorful acrylic paints. She is also known for her provocative paintings of African American women who romanticize power and femininity, which is reminiscent of the 1970s-style Blaxploitation genre. Her work explores and expands on the common definition of beauty in a Contemporary perspective. Her work is heavily influenced by pop culture as well as Pop Art. Thomas's work is also inspired by her serious study of art history, as well as the genres of landscape, still life, and portraiture. Thomas graduated from the Pratt Institute in 2000 with a BA in Fine Arts and earned her MA in Fine Arts at Yale University in 2002. She also studied abroad in Lismore, Australia, at Southern Cross University.

Thomas's work has been exhibited across the United States. She has had exhibitions at the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Dumbo Arts Center. She was also the resident artist at Yale and the Studio Museum in Harlem. In 2011, she was the resident artist at The Versailles Foundation Munn Artist Program in Giverny, France. Thomas's work in the Odalisque series (2007) attracted much press. Critics interpreted the series as an investigation into the artist and muse relationship. One of her most popular works is La Lecon d'amour (2008), which explored African American social awareness and same-sex sexuality. Thomas has also explored the themes and symbolism of women in exotic scenery. One of her most unusual works is FBI/Serial Portraits (2008). This work experimented with institutional images and featured mug shots of African American women in prison. Thomas' portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama garnered significant press and was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery's Americans Now show.

Thomas is based in New York City. She is currently represented by Lehmann Maupin in New York and Rhona Hoffman Gallery in Chicago. Susanne Vielmetter represents her Los Angeles projects.


Born in Camden, NJ
Southern Cross University, Lismore, Australia
Yale Norfolk Summer of Music and Art, Norfolk, CT
BFA, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY
Vermont Studios Center, Johnson, VT
MFA, Yale University School of Art, New Haven, CT
Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY


30 Americans - Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI
Mickalene Thomas - ICA - Institute of Contemporary ArtBoston, Boston, MA
Mickalene Thomas - Lehmann Maupin, New York City, NY
Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe - Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York City, NY
Origin of the Universe - Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica, CA
Origin of the Universe - Avisca Fine Art, Marietta, GA
Mickalene Thomas - Lehmann Maupin, New York City, NY
Mama Bush: One of a Kind Two - Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo
Put A Little Sugar In My Bowl - Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, Culver City, CA
On-site 3: Mickalene Thomas - MoMA PS1, New York City, NY
She's Come UnDone!, Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
Girlfriends, Lovers, Still Lifes and Landscape, Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago, IL (solo)
30 Americans, Rubell Family Collection, Miami, FL
Group Show, Andréhn-Schiptjenko, Stockholm, Sweden
As Others See Us: The Contemporary Portrait, Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, Brattleboro, VT
Perverted by Theater, curated by Franklin Evans, Apexart, New York, NY
The Other Mainstream II: Selections from the Collection of Mikki and Stanley Weithorn, Arizona State University Art Museum, Tempe, AZ
Becoming: Photographs from the Wedge Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit, MI
City Stage, New Orleans Contemporary Art Center, New Orleans, LA
Black Is, Black Ain’t, Renaissance Society, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
What’s Love Got to Do With It?, Bloom Projects, Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, CA (solo)
Sweet SweetBack’s Baadasssss Song, Von Lintel Gallery, New York, NY
Commemorating 30 Years 1976-2007 Part Three 1991-2007, Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago, IL
Distinctive Messenger, House of Campari, New York, NY
Sex in the City, Dumbo Arts Center, Brooklyn, NY
Taking Aim, Rhodes College, Memphis, TN
Some Kind of Portrait, Marc Selwyn Fine Art, Los Angeles, CA
Flava, Wedge Curatorial Projects, Toronto, Canada
Prime Time, Caren Golden Fine Art Gallery, New York, NY
An Imitation of Love, Brawlin Spitfire Two, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects (Project Room) (solo)
My Love is a 187, Luggage Store Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Inspired in New York, Echo Gallery, New York, NY
Not An Ocean Between Us: Voices of Women From African and the African Diaspora”, Winston Salem State University. Winston Salem, NC
Lag Time Line Up, Mumbo Jumbo Gallery, New York, NY
Something About You..., Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago, IL (solo)
“Materiality”, Kravets/Wehby Gallery, New York
“Wild Girls”, Exit Art, New York
“The Pulse of New Brooklyn”, MoCADA Museum, Brooklyn, NY
“Armory Art Fair” with Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Pier 90, New York
“Do You Think I’m Disco”, Longwood Art Gallery, Bronx, NY
“Brawling Spitfire”, Special Project, Dust Gallery, Las Vegas (solo)
“Art Basel” with Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Miami, FL
“NeoVernacular”, Steve Turner Gallery, Los Angeles
“Five Artists, Five Projects”, Greenberg Van Doren Gallery, New York
“Maximum Flavor”, Atlanta College of Art Gallery, Atlanta, GA
“Greater New York 2005”, P.S.1/MoMA, Long Island City, NY
“African Queen”, Studio Museum in Harlem, NY
Tete-a-Tete, Greenberg Van Doren Gallery, New York, NY
Frequency, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY
“Me, Myself and I”, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL
“Glamour, Glory and Gold”, The Proposition Gallery, New York
“Seeds and Roots”, Studio Museum in Harlem, NY
“It’s About Memory”, Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago, IL
“Beauty”, Kravets/Wehby Gallery, New York
“Pantone”, Massimo Audiello Gallery, New York
“Because I’m Worth It”, Chelsea Art Museum, New York
“Hands on Hands Down”, Studio Museum in Harlem, NY
“Why Don’t We Do It In the Road”, Ambrosino Gallery, Miami, FL
Corridor Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
Elizabeth Stockel Battel Gallery, Norfolk, CT
“Brush”, The Yellow Door Gallery, New York
The Knitting Factory, New York
Downtown Community Television Center, New York