Mickalene Thomas & The Harlem Renaissance

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Mickalene Thomas is a contemporary African-American artist best known for her complex paintings that draw from Western art history, pop art and visual culture to examine ideas around femininity, beauty, race, sexuality, and gender. Dr. Simone Drake, of The Ohio State University, will discuss Thomas's art and its connection to The Harlem Renaissance. View the exhibition Mickalene Thomas: I Can't See You Without Me at The Wexner Center thru December 30.

Thomas's work conjures the visual and sonic black cultures of 1970s funk while also being reminiscent of the jazz age pizzazz of the 1920s Harlem Renaissance. Drawing connections between Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, and Aaron Douglass negotiating artistic and intellectual production in light of the demands of their mutual patron, this talk considers how Thomas harnesses the spirit of Hurston, in particular, as Thomas controls her own creative productions and constructs her own narrative of black muses against the backdrop of funk. 

Simone Drake is the Hazel C. Youngberg Trustees Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of African American and African Studies at The Ohio State University. She received her doctorate in English Literature from the University of Maryland, a Master in the Study of Law from OSU Moritz College of Law as well as a dual master's degree in English and African American and African Studies, and a bachelor's degree in Classical Civilization and English from Denison University. She is the author of When We Imagine Grace: Black Men and Subject Making (University of Chicago Press 2016) and Critical Appropriations: African American Women and the Construction of Transnational Identity (Louisiana State University Press 2014); co-editor (with Dwan Henderson Simmons) of Are You Entertained?: Black Popular Culture in the Twenty-First Century (forthcoming Duke University Press); and numerous journal articles and book chapters. Her manuscript Reviving the Uplift Tradition: The Black Middle Class and School Choice is well under way. She serves on the editorial boards of The Ohio State University Press and Spectrum: A Journal on Black Men (Indiana University Press).
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