Art Exhibit: Mickalene Thomas’ Origin of the Universe

Each September the Brooklyn Museum takes a break from the usual First Saturday fanfare, but this year we have something to look forward to later in the month: Mickalene Thomas’ Origin of the Universe, an exhibit that indulges the female form in all it’s curves, color, and power.

A graduate of the Pratt Institute, Thomas is best known for her depictions of African-American women. In 2008 she delivered Michelle O., the first individual portrait created of First Lady Michelle Obama, and last summer she was responsible for my favorite BOMB Magazine cover.

Often splashed in color and adorned with rhinestone embellishments, Thomas’ paintings and collages balance the complexities of black womanhood and challenge traditional notions of beauty, gender, and race. So much is a simultaneous possibility for Thomas — sexuality, femininity, and power — and Origin of the Universe shows this through portraits and landscapes inspired by the artist’s childhood in the 1970s.

Mickalene Thomas cover art: BOMB Magazine, Issue 116

What’s exciting about the exhibit’s opening is that Thomas will also debut her dip into the documentary arts. According to GalleristNY, Thomas will premiere Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Woman, a tribute to the artist’s chief muse, her mother, Sandra Bush, that she created for this exhibit.

Once a vibrant woman, Thomas’ mother now lives with kidney failure and is the subject of numerous pieces in her daughter’s body of work. During this time, Thomas uses her art to celebrate the life her mother no longer lives and attempts to understand her mother’s present. In a statement released by her gallery, Lehmann Maupin, Thomas says, “I want to continue to use her in my work as a way to investigate and grasp the understanding of beauty, success, and failure. She is 6’1” and modeled for most of her life. I want my work to represent her in the reality of who she is, but I also want to capture her strength and beauty.”

Origin of the Universe opens at the Brooklyn Museum September 28 and runs through January 20, 2013. Before you go, click here for Sean Landers’ Q&A with Mickalene Thomas for BOMB Magazine.