COLORING THE CANON: THE REVISIONIST WORK OF MICKALENE THOMAS
American art museums have long been elite, white, male dominated spaces where white, Euro-American women have appeared as merely muses or subjects of artworks. Rarely are women of color represented in the museum in artworks or as artists. This senior thesis, “Coloring the Canon: The Revisionist Work of Mickalene Thomas,” examines the work of contemporary artist Mickalene Thomas to interrogate issues of race, gender, and sexuality in American culture. Skeen argues that Thomas makes as an intervention in the art world by revising canonical works to feature more women of color, rendering her black female subjects with agency, and incorporating “low-brow” art forms into her paintings. Thomas’ work looks back to the art of modern masters like Edouard Manet and Gustave Courbet and more recent sources of inspiration including her personal experience as a black woman raised in the 1970s, influenced by the Civil Rights Movement, Black is Beautiful Movement, and Second Wave Feminism. This intervention serves to upend the hierarchies that underlie the art world. In “Coloring the Canon,” Skeen demonstrates the need for more diverse stories and voices in the American canon and museum.