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Mickalene Thomas Muse at DAI

October 21, 2018

In Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs at the Dayton Art Institute, large-format photographs of beautiful women connect eyes with the viewer, surrounded by 1970s patterns and palettes. Both monumental in scale and also in linking contemporary subject matter to art history, Muse is a marvelous journey through Thomas’ photographic body of work, and the dual influence of photographs with her paintings and collage that initially brought her acclaim in the contemporary art world.


Mickalene Thomas, la leçon d’amour, 2008, c-print

Organized by the Aperture Foundation, Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs is held in conjunction with Cincinnati’s FotoFocus Biennial.


From the exhibition text: “Mickalene Thomas’ photographic work functions as a personal act of deconstruction and reappropriation – both of images she has created herself and images she has singled out as influential. With each series, she grapples with and asserts new definitions of beauty and inspiration. Thomas’ portraits draw equally from 1970s black-is-beautiful images of women, such as supermodel Beverly Johnson and actress Vonetta McGee; the 19th-century French painter Édouard Manet’s odalisque figures; and the mise-en-scène studio portraiture of James Van Der Zee and Malick Sidibé, to mention a few. This collection of portraits and staged scenes reflects a very personal community of inspiration as well – a collection of muses that includes Thomas herself, her mother, and her friends and lovers, emphasizing the communal and social aspects of art-making and creativity that pervade her work.”

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The exhibition is a must-see as the only midwestern stop for this traveling exhibition.  Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs is on view through January 13, 2019.  Learn more at or

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