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November 10, 2020

Acquisition: Mickalene Thomas, "Melody: Back"

Mickalene Thomas, "Melody: Back"

Mickalene Thomas
Melody: Back, 2011
diffusion transfer print (Polaroid)
image: 62.23 x 52.71 cm (24 1/2 x 20 3/4 in.)
sheet: 86.36 x 55.88 cm (34 x 22 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Charina Endowment Fund and Peter Edwards and Rose Gutfeld Fund

The Gallery has acquired its first work by celebrated African American artist Mickalene Thomas (b. 1971). Although she is best known for her rhinestone-encrusted paintings, Thomas has made photographs since the beginning of her artistic career. Melody: Back (2011), a Polaroid print that depicts a seated nude woman, draws on European art history with the model mimicking the pose of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres's The Grand Odalisque (1814). Instead of placing her figure on sumptuous silks, as Ingres did, Thomas has used boldly patterned fabrics, and her black model proudly displays a tattoo on her back that says "Only God Can Judge Me." Proclaiming her subject's beauty and sexuality, Thomas provocatively challenges cultural stereotypes while creating a richly textured work of art.

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