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Three Graces- Les Trois Femmes Noires, 2011

I want to give a shout out to an artist whose work has inspired what I do here at Brittle Paper.

Those who read Brittle Paper know how seriously I take the images that accompany every blog post. Images are not just accessories. They heighten the power of written work and help readers connect emotionally to texts.

Untitled #4, 2013In the course of my time as an editor, my search for powerful images has led me to some startling discoveries—one of which is the work of Mickalene Thomas, an American artist with a dazzling body of work crafted and adorned with acrylic, rhinestones, and enamel.

It all began with a story sent in by the Nigerian on-air personality, Wana Udobang. The story features a heart-rending and intimate account of a woman struggling with weight gain and issues of body image. (click here if you missed it.)

To make the woman’s anguish more present, I wanted to pair it with an image that told the opposite story, an image that characterized black female bodies and identity in the most powerfully provocative light.

My search was rewarded with one of Thomas’ work featuring a black woman siting in a boudoir. Her pose is suggestive—almost seductive but in an understated way. However, what I found remarkable about the image is the strong, resolute, and defiant gaze she fixes on whoever or whatever is standing before her.

mickalene-thomas-5-e1399242993694

Wana Udobang’s powerful story has since been adapted to film, and I am ever more convinced that Thomas’ image introduced into the story its underlying message of hope.

In honor of an artist whose work has played its part in inspiring the literary work I do here, I invite you to visit her newly designed page where you can learn about her life and work, in addition to seeing a dazzling variety of pieces from her catalog.

As I revisit these images, I’m struck by Thomas’s uncanny ability to capture the black female body—drenched in color and situated in spaces of intimacy—in bejeweled tones of beauty and elegance.

The fact that she draws inspiration from African aesthetic forms should also be noted. “African art,” she says in an interview, “is prominent in my work; it’s something I refer to especially regarding space and color.”

Click HERE for a stunning visual experience of Thomas’s work.

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Ainehi Edoro is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature. She received her doctorate at Duke University. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper and series editor of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writer’s imprint.

2 Responses to “When Art Meets Literature | Finding Literary Inspiration in Mickalene Thomas’ Art Work” Subscribe

  1. Eddie Hewitt March 16, 2015 at 4:09 pm #

    This is one of my favourites of all your posts so far. I really like the pictures, and the story and the interview that you have included links to here. A very fine, beautifully crafted piece on your part, BrittlePaper, and wonderful subject matter. Contemporary excellence. The connection between Art and Literature is so important to me, too. Thank you for bringing all this to the fore.

    • Ainehi Edoro March 26, 2015 at 12:55 pm #

      @Eddi: Thanks so much for your kind words!

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