Welcome to this ninth episode of the Dior Talks podcast series ‘Feminist Art’. This podcast series will explore the connections between Creative Director of Women’s collections Maria Grazia Chiuri and contemporary women artists and curators.
In this episode, series host Katy Hessel, a London-based curator, writer and art-historian, speaks with Mickalene Thomas, the New York-based painter and multimedia artist, about her career as an observer and documenter of African American womanhood in all its variety, and her lifelong fascination with the black female experience, from her own family members to the world at large.
Mickalene Thomas was born in Camden, New Jersey, in 1971 and was raised by a remarkable mother who introduced her to visual art as a young child and raised her as a Buddhist. Thomas studied pre-law and theater in Portland, Oregon, before completing her BA and MA in Fine Art at the Pratt Institute and Yale School of Art, respectively. Based in Brooklyn, she has exhibited her paintings, collages, photographs, films and videos around the world, including in major exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum, ICA Boston, Aspen Art Museum and Baltimore Museum of Art. She has also completed many commissions, amongst others at MoMA PS1 in New York, the Norton Museum of Art, and a mosaic mural for the wall of the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal.
Thomas’s work and research processes involve multiple reference points, including the history of art, the representation of black femininity and black power and the seminal 1970s ‘Blaxploitation’ genre. She has painted many iconic African American women, including Eartha Kitt, Whitney Houston, Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama, and is renowned for her deft use of classical traditions of fine art in her penetrative portrayals of the black experience.
For the Dior Cruise 2020 collection, Maria Grazia Chiuri commissioned Thomas to reinterpret Christian Dior’s iconic ‘Bar’ jacket, a timely collaboration and an opportunity for the two creatives to combine their passions for the historical and the contemporary, along with their mutual dedication to feminism and female creativity. In 2018, Thomas was invited to create a new and striking take on the ‘Lady Dior’ handbag, as part of the limited-edition ‘Dior Lady Art’ series.