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March 31, 2023


mickalene thomas throwing paper at the camera in an art studio

Since 2016, the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) has been asking this question on social media each March during Women's History Month. Using the hashtag #5WomenArtists, the campaign calls attention to the fact that women have not been treated equally in the art world, and today they remain dramatically underrepresented and undervalued in museums, galleries, and auction houses.

Each year, hundreds of cultural organizations and thousands of individuals take to social media to answer the challenge, sparking a global conversation about gender equity in the arts. This year, MOCA has chosen 5 women artists we are currently working with to join the conversation and highlight the amazing projects on view in the museum. 

sleep: deux femmes noires by mickalene thomas


Mickalene Thomas, Sleep: Deux Femmes Noires, 2013. Mixed media, 44.25" x 86.5" x 3" inches. Museum Purchase, 2022.01.

Mickalene Thomas is best known for her large-scale collages that weave themes of Black female beauty, power, and sexuality into classical genres of portraiture and landscape. MOCA Jacksonville recently acquired her work Sleep: Deux Femmes Noires as part of its permanent collection. The mixed media collage is featured in the exhibition Contemporary Cartographies, which is on view through October 15. 

Sleep: Deux Femmes Noires, is a remarkable work made with 61 colors, 58 screens, 27 individual blocks, and 50 different collage components, including mahogany and cherry veneers. Each component and process adds to the lush composition of color, texture, and pattern. The figures included in the collage are printed from an interior scene Thomas composed and photographed at 20 x 24 Studio in New York using a large format camera. Many of the landscape photographs used in the print are from Thomas's personal travel in Africa.

Mickalene Thomas was born and raised in New Jersey and lives and works in New York. One of the most influential artists today, her innovative practice has yielded instantly recognizable and widely celebrated aesthetic languages within contemporary visual culture. Not only do her masterful mixed-media paintings, photographs, films and installations command space, they occupy eloquently while dissecting the intersecting complexities of black and female identity within the Western canon. Outside of her core practice, Thomas is a Tony Awards nominated co-producer, curator, educator and mentor to many emerging artists. While embarking on her own monumental solo shows, she simultaneously curates exhibitions at galleries and museums. Thomas's work has become an undeniable force within the contemporary art world and an indispensable inspiration to younger generations of artists.

collage of close up mickalene working and standing up in front on art

Thomas received a B.F.A. from the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY in 2000 and an M.F.A. from Yale University School of Art, New Haven, CT in 2002. Her work has been featured across the globe and ore than 25 solo exhibitions have been organized at places such as Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris; The Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, FL; and Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Thomas's work is in numerous international public and private collections including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Art Institute of Chicago; MoMA PS1, New York; Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Yale University Art Collection, New Haven, CT; and Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo.