MICKALENE THOMAS by Sean Landers
From: BOMB 116/Summer 2011
SEAN LANDERS: Let me just say that I met you at Yale in 2000. I was one of your many teachers.
MICKALENE THOMAS: One of my favorites.
SL: We had a great time together. We’d meet at the Gypsy Bar after classes and we had a lot of fun. But we haven’t seen each other much in the last ten years. I’ve followed your professional career but I don’t know what your path was like. We won’t dwell on it, but fill me in. You moved from New Haven, and then where’d you go?
MT: I had a year-long residency at the Studio Museum in Harlem. I was encouraged by Kehinde Wiley to apply, so I did, and I got in.
SL: That’s where it all started?
MT: Well, kind of. It was a transition from graduate school to a more professional environment. I met some really great people at the Studio Museum. Louis Cameron and Deborah Grant were two young artists who had full résumés and many exhibitions. I had just graduated from the Yale School of Art. I came in fresh, very naïve, and I just really wanted to be a part of what they were doing. So they became my honest, critical voices.
SL: I know that you are from Camden, New Jersey. Do you want to quickly go through some of your biography? Things that were important along the way?
MT: I was born in Camden, New Jersey, in 1971 and raised in Hillside and East Orange by my mother. She very smartly put my brother and me in after–school programs at the Newark Museum and the Henry Street Settlement in New York. It was a way of getting us to see and do things that we otherwise weren’t exposed to in our everyday environments.