in other words

#53 The “Daft Punk of Contemporary Painting”—Artist Mickalene Thomas

by Charlotte Burns
(Left to right) Antwaun Sargent, Mickalene Thomas and Racquel Chevremont

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In the words of the Los Angeles Times, the artist Mickalene Thomas “is to contemporary painting what Daft Punk is to music: acclaimed as one of the more original remix artists working today.” Her genre-busting work takes many forms, and grapples with bodies and their desires, with power, equity and identity. In today’s episode, she talks about community and collaboration—both essential to her practice—in a conversation with her partner and muse, the art consultant Racquel Chevremont, the cultural critic Antwaun Sargent and Charlotte Burns, the host of In Other Words.

Thomas and Chevremont recently launched “Deux Femme Noires”, an organization focused on mentoring emerging artists of color. “The more of us that come up, the better,” Chevremont says “We want the room to be filled with us.”

Thomas was studying to be a lawyer when a chance encounter with the photographs of Carrie Mae Weems inspired her to change direction and become an artist herself. Whatever that power is, or mystery one may feel when they’re excited by or inspired by particular art—I knew that’s what I wanted to do with images,” Thomas says. “And I knew I wanted to create that space for others.”

Tune in for more from the artist, the muse and the writer in today’s episode.


Mickalene Thomas

Mickalene Thomas is a 2015 United States Artists Francie Bishop Good & David Horvitz Fellow, and 2018 New York Academy of Art Honorary Doctorate recipient. She is a distinguished visual artist, filmmaker, and curator who has exhibited extensively both nationally and internationally and is known for paintings that combine art-historical, political, and pop-cultural references. Her work introduces complex notions of femininity and challenges common definitions of beauty and aesthetic representations of women.

Thomas holds an MFA from Yale University and a BFA from Pratt Institute. She’s held solo museum exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum, Aspen Museum, and L’Ecole des Beaux Arts, Monaco. Recent solo exhibitions include “Mickalene Thomas: Femmes Noires” at the Art Gallery of Ontario, “Mickalene Thomas: I Can’t See You Without Me” at Wexner Center for the Arts, “Mickalene Thomas: Do I Look Like a Lady?” at MOCA Grand, Los Angeles; and “Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs” at Aperture Foundation, New York, which traveled to several venues across the United States and featured her notably curated exhibition, tête-à-tête. Thomas’s work is in the permanent collections of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Brooklyn Museum, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, Hammer Museum, and Smithsonian American Art Museum, among many others.

Racquel Chevremont

collector and art advisor
Racquel Chevremont was born and raised in New York City. In 1991, two years into her studies at New York University, she was discovered by photographer and Elite model management scout Steve Landis at the HMV on 86th Street. That chance meeting led to a 20 year career as a model for Elite model management and Wilhelmina models. In 1998 she started Crux Candles, Inc a high end candle company carried in stores around the world as well as QVC. She ran Crux Candles until 2003. In 2003 she joined the Acquisitions Committees at both the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Guggenheim. She also began building a contemporary art collection and running the State Street Salon out of her townhouse in Brooklyn. State Street Salon was a platform for artists, curators and collectors designed to help cultivate a new generation of collectors. She currently runs an art consulting business working closely with artists, corporations and collectors and is co-founder of Deux Femmes Noires, a platform to bring visibility to artists of color and queer artists.

Antwaun Sargent

critic and writer
Antwaun Sargent is writer and critic living and working in New York City. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Nation, W, Vice and various other publications. He has recently contributed essays and interviews to museum and gallery publications for artists Ed Clark, Mickalene Thomas, Arthur Jafa and Yinka Shonibare. Sargent has lectured and been in conversation with artists at Studio Museum in Harlem, Brooklyn Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, Art Gallery of Toronto and various other institutions. His first book “The New Black Vanguard: Photography between Art and Fashion” is out this fall from Aperture.

Charlotte Burns

Executive editor of In Other Words
Charlotte Burns is the editor of In Other Words, our weekly newsletters and podcasts. She was previously the US news and market editor for The Art Newspaper, as well as a regular correspondent for publications such as the Guardian and Monocle. Previously, she worked with the London dealer Anthony d’Offay on special projects. For several years, she was a consultant at the cultural communications agency, Bolton & Quinn. She also worked at Hauser & Wirth in London.

Burns received a Masters degree (with Merit) from the Courtauld Institute in Art and Cultural Politics in Germany, 1890-1945, as well as a first-class B.A. honors degree in English and History of Art from Birmingham University. She moved to New York in 2010.

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