Mickalene Thomas (American, born 1971)
chromogenic print on paper
39 3/4 x 49 1/2 in. (100.97 x 125.73 cm)
Museum Purchase, Lloyd O. and Marjorie Strong Coulter Fund, 2018.8. © 2021 Mickalene Thomas / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Tell Me What You’re Thinking references the paintings of male artists such as Titian, Manet, and Matisse, white European male artists who frequently placed women in suggestive postures within exotic settings. Mickalene Thomas consistently complicates this history and reconfigures the relationship between artist, model, and viewer. In this photograph, the central figure, a model with whom she works frequently, reclines in a flowered dress in an odalisque posture amidst a sea of brightly colored and exuberantly patterned fabrics. Staring directly at the viewer, the model exudes confidence and commands attention. Thomas’s work also draws influence from the fashion, film, music, and television culture of her youth in the 1970s and 1980s. This evocation of the past liberates the composition from the present moment and allows it to engage in meaningful ways with larger questions about the changing representations of Black women in art from past and present.