Mickalene Thomas is an artist, best known for her paintings made of rhinestones, acrylic and enamel; she also works in photography, collage, printmaking, sculpture and installation art. Born in Camden, New Jersey, she was raised by her mother, Sandra Bush, whose addiction to drugs when Mickalene was a teenager was one factor in the growing difficulties in their relationship. Another was Mickalene’s sexuality; after high school, she moved to Portland, Oregon, to be close to a woman with whom she had fallen in love. She considered becoming a lawyer before switching to fine art, studying first at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, then taking her master’s in fine art at Yale.
Her work explores her own identity, sexuality and the relationship of women of colour to the world around them. It draws on art history and classical genres to question why women, especially black women, have been excluded or marginalised; her work radiates sexuality, black femininity and power.