Kenyon College

I’ve Been Good To Me


Mickalene Thomas
(American, b. 1971).

I’ve Been Good To Me, 2015.
Mixed media.
60 x 50 inches (framed).
Courtesy of Alva Greenberg.

Brooklyn-based Mickalene Thomas is best known for her large-scale paintings and collages that combine rhinestones, enamels, acrylics and patterned textures to explore themes of African American female identity, sexuality and desire. These historically aware constructions recall Afrocentric and Blaxploitation imagery of the 1960’s and 1970’s, playing upon characters like “Foxy Brown,” while betraying a deep knowledge of portrait traditions throughout art history. Collage allows for elements of fantasy to enter into her compositions, like the white cougar ceramic tchotchke in the center left of the composition, a coded sexual reference combined with leopard and animal prints familiar to work by Thomas.

Drawing inspiration from the colorful patterns of Byzantine mosaics, the female portraits of Edouard Manet, and Romare Bearden’s collages, I’ve Been Good To Me, reorganizes the domestic interior space surrounding a central figure. Using the 1970’s floral patterning and costuming, the prints and graphics enframe the central figure, paradoxically re-defining her form while simultaneously pushing her surrounding space toward formal abstraction. The patterned dress begins to blend into the patterned sofa and other collaged visual textures. The back wall and negative spaces box the central figure in, creating a hyper-awareness that the scene is a fabricated collage.

Emily Sussman ‘15