Mickalene Thomas’s Bedazzled work in TROVE

Mickalene Thomas, "A-E-I-O-U and Sometimes Y"

Mickalene Thomas, "A-E-I-O-U and Sometimes Y;" Plastic rhinestones, acrylic, and enamel on panel; 24 x 20 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Deborah Carstens

Akin to the “Most likely to-” entries in a yearbook, portraits featured in Trove present women and men who enact a range of identities—from intellect to free spirit, rebel to aristocrat, and innocent to vamp. This work A-E-I-O-U and Sometimes Y, 2009 by Mickalene Thomas is a perfect example of portraiture.

Rather than those of authors or playwrights, the portraits most familiar to us today are those of Hollywood-based celebrities. The women portrayed by Mickalene Thomas (American, b. 1971) exude the glamour we expect of stars, and Thomas’s paintings are inspired by pop art and 1970s black culture.

Working from a digital projection of a photo booth snapshot, Thomas outlines her subject’s contours in black rhinestones. At first glance, the glossy pink panel looks perfectly uniform, as if machine-made. Closer inspection reveals subtle color variations and paint layers that confirm Thomas’ s creative presence. The painting  above is based on an Andy Warhol-style photo booth snapshot of one of Thomas’s frequent models.

Mickalene Thomas © 2011, Lamont Hamilton, Courtesy of the Artist

In her own words… “I feel like the rhinestones in my paintings are like that really glossy lipstick that women wear. It’s another level of masking, of dressing up.”

Thomas titles many of her works after songs. “A-E-I-O-U Sometimes Y” was a dance club and MTV hit by the two-man group Ebn-Ozn. Check out the video of this 1983 hit.


TROVE” The Collection in Depth closes this weekend on Sunday, January 15.

0 thoughts on “Mickalene Thomas’s Bedazzled work in TROVE

  1. hmmm… i have another thought.
    she might have been referring to this song (which always comes to my mind when I see that artwork.):