Mickalene Thomas thought she wanted to be a lawyer until she discovered her latent artistic talent at art retreat in Oregon when she was 25. In this interview, Thomas tells about what it took to make the leap from law to art, and how she has now become one of the most sought-after contemporary artists in the world.
Mickalene Thomas’ art introduces a complex vision of what it means to be a woman and expands on the common definition of beauty. Her portrait of Michelle Obama was the first individual portrait done of the First Lady and exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery.
One of the most influential contemporary black artists, Thomas is known for her elaborate paintings adorned with rhinestones, enamel and colorful acrylics.
Her work has gone on to be displayed in many public collections, including the Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Thomas describes herself as a “late bloomer,” studying pre-law and working at a law firm before attending art school.
She discovered her talent while living in Portland in her 20s. Surrounded by artists, Thomas decided to begin making art of her own. She greater realized her talent on an art therapy retreat and made the decision to begin making art professionally when she was 25.