The new exhibition opening at the Dayton Art Institute, Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs and tête-à-tête, is from contemporary African-American artist Mickalene Thomas and features several large scale photographs of influential and personal themes along with the artist curated works entitled tête-à-tête. Thomas is widely known for her complex paintings made of rhinestones, acrylic, and enamel, but her photography is also an important and dramatic aspect of her work.
Mickalene’s large scale photographs of black women will evoke a diverse range of thought and emotion from viewers as they examine issues of femininity, beauty, race, sexuality, and gender in her work. Mickalene purposefully omits long descriptions beside her work so the viewer is able to create their own narrative without prompting from the artist. However, it is noteworthy that one of the first series of photographs in the exhibit features Mickalene’s mother Sandra Bush, a former fashion model who was a very influential in her life who eventually succumbed to kidney disease. Their relationship was not always easy and attendees can view a film shown inside the exhibit that deals with some of these aspects of their lives.
The photographs, being personal and influential, also share a theme of 70s decor and fashion that were a part of the artist’s upbringing. Mickalene was born in 1971 in New Jersey, so was very much a child of the 70s. Also, showing a playful but albeit daring side, there is a portrait of Mickalene in her alter ego that she wore sometimes on campus while attending Yale which undoubtedly rose the issue of “who belongs where” among students and faculty.
The visual conversation curated by Mickalene, tête-à-tête, further explores the ideas central to her work featuring photographers and key images which have inspired her. Artists in tête-à-tête include Derrick Adams, Renée Cox, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Lyle Ashton Harris, Deana Lawson, Zanele Muholi, Malick Sidibé, Xaviera Simmons, Hank Willis Thomas, and Carrie Mae Weems.
Written by Ed Dixon
A number of events and programs will be held in conjunction with this special exhibition, including:
- ARTIST TALK WITH WILLIS “BING” DAVIS, Saturday, November 10, 11:30 a.m.
- CURATORIAL CONVERSATIONS EXHIBITION TOUR, Thursday, November 15, 6–7 p.m.
- THE LANGUAGE OF ART, November 28 & December 1, noon–2 p.m. each day
- BEHIND THE SCENES TALK, Thursday, November 29, 4–5 p.m.
- ARTIST TALK WITH AMY POWELL, Saturday, December 8, 11:30 a.m.
Admission to Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs and tête-à-tête is free for museum members. Non-member admission is $14 adults; $11 seniors (60+), students (18+ w/ID), active military and groups (10 or more); $6 youth (ages 7–17); and free for children (ages 6 & under). Prices include admission to Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs and tête-à-tête, as well as the museum’s collection galleries. Equitas Health will sponsor a special Community Day on Saturday, October 27, with free admission to the special exhibition and the collection galleries.
For more about the exhibition and its related programs, go to www.daytonartinstitute.org/muse and join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #MuseDAI. To learn more about Mickalene Thomas, visit the artist’s website at www.mickalenethomas.com.