MICKALENE THOMAS LECTURE at the Tang – Feb 8, 6pm.

Mickalene Thomas to deliver seventh-annual Winter/Miller Lecture

Acclaimed artist creates visual homages to Black women that subvert traditional notions of beauty, race, and gender

Thursday, February 8, 6 pm

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY (January 18, 2024) — The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College announces the seventh-annual Winter/Miller Lecture, to be delivered by revered multidisciplinary artist Mickalene Thomas on Thursday, February 8, at 6 pm. The event is free and open to the public.

Thomas is lauded for her bedazzled portraits of Black women, including supermodels, family friends, contemporary Black icons, and her mother, a frequent muse. These vibrant, monumental, and provocative images mingle figuration, abstraction, and collage, with subjects in elaborate settings often gazing straight into the camera. Her work has been exhibited around the world; a 2012 portrait of her mother, Madame Mama Bush, will be on view this spring in the Tang exhibition Studio/Archive.

Thomas’s expansive artistic practice also includes photography, collage, filmmaking, and site-specific installations. Her work references and rejects the overwhelming whiteness of the art historical canon by challenging conventional ideas of gender, race, sexuality, and intimacy. Thomas has cited numerous artistic influences from across time periods, including Edouard Manet, Henri Matisse, Carrie Mae Weems, Kerry James Marshall, and the Black is Beautiful cultural movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

Beyond her studio practice, Thomas has produced a Tony-nominated Broadway show, designed clothing for Christian Dior, curated museum exhibitions, and taught at colleges across the US. She has made mentorship central to her career. She is a co-founder of SOULAS House, a cultural hub and retreat for Black women, a co-founder of Pratt>FORWARD and the founder of Art>FORWARD Artist in the Market incubator for post-graduate students.

Thomas’s appearance is at the invitation of Abigail Svetlik ’24, who holds the prestigious 2023-24 Eleanor Linder Winter ’43 Endowed Internship, a one-year pre-professional program in museum work at the Tang for Skidmore College students. In this role, Svetlik researches, plans, and coordinates the Winter/Miller Lecture. Svetlik also works in the museum’s curatorial department, assisting with writing and research about upcoming exhibitions.

Svetlik, a double major in art history and English literature, has been involved with the Tang since her sophomore year. She has been a member of the Student Advisory Council, a gallery monitor, a tour guide, and a public programming intern. She says the Tang provides invaluable academic enrichment, professional experience, and on-campus community.

Svetlik first encountered Thomas’s work as a child during visits to the National Gallery of American Art in her hometown, Washington, DC. She was struck by the scale of Thomas’s portraiture and her inventive use of unconventional materials. While researching Thomas and preparing for the lecture, Svetlik says, “I become fascinated by Mickalene’s tenderness with her subjects and the ferocity and liveliness of her images. It is an unbelievable honor to host Mickalene at the Tang and to have a conversation with one of today’s most influential artists.”

The Winter/Miller Lecture is made possible through a generous gift by the family of Eleanor “Ellie” Linder Winter ’43. Previous lectures have been given by Nicole Eisenman, 2018; Chris Ware, 2019; Wangechi Mutu, 2020; Nick Cave, 2021; Juliana Huxtable, 2022; and Trenton Doyle Hancock, 2023. Ellie Winter (1921-2010) was a generous benefactor, friend, and patron of the arts. Her philanthropy provided special opportunities for Skidmore students to learn through exposure to the arts, particularly through her support of the Tang Teaching Museum, which named its Winter Gallery in her honor. Eleanor and her family, including grandson Jonathan Winter ’07, established the Winter Family Exhibition Fund to support students as they collaborate with faculty and Tang curators to create shows for the Winter Gallery. The family also supports the Winter Internship program and an annual scholarship through the Eleanor Linder Winter ’43 Scholarship Fund. The college has further recognized Eleanor’s commitment by naming the Department of Art History offices in her honor.

About Mickalene Thomas

Mickalene Thomas (b. 1971; Camden, New Jersey) has garnered international acclaim for her expansive artistic practice that includes dazzling rhinestone, acrylic, and enamel portraits of Black women, photography, collage, film, and site-specific installations. Across these mediums, Thomas engages with issues of gender, race, intimacy, and beauty standards. Her work meets figuration with abstraction, expertly manipulating artistic conventions to construct vibrant images. While she often includes references to art history, her subjects challenge the overwhelming whiteness of the Western canon. Thomas’s work has been exhibited worldwide and is part of the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, National Gallery of Art, Art Institute of Chicago, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Tang Teaching Museum, where one of Thomas’s photographs will be on view in the exhibition Studio/Archive. Beyond visual art, Thomas has produced a Tony-nominated Broadway show, designed luxury clothing, curated museum exhibitions, and mentored young artists. She earned a BFA in painting from the Pratt Institute and an M.F.A. from the Yale University School of Art.

About the Tang Teaching Museum

The Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College is a pioneer of interdisciplinary exploration and learning. A cultural anchor of New York’s Capital Region, the institution’s approach has become a model for university art museums across the country — with exhibition programs and series that bring together the visual and performing arts with fields of study as disparate as history, astronomy, and physics. The Tang has one of the most rigorous faculty-engagement initiatives in the nation, the Mellon Seminar, and robust publication and touring exhibition initiatives that extend the institution’s reach far beyond its walls. The Tang Teaching Museum’s building, designed by architect Antoine Predock, serves as a visual metaphor for the convergence of ideas and exchange the institution catalyzes. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, from noon to 5 pm, with extended hours until 9 pm Thursday. More information at http://tang.skidmore.edu.