Mickalene Thomas: Mentors, Muses and Celebrities 

When: Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 31
Price: free admission

Mickalene Thomas

New York-based artist Mickalene Thomas pursues the perception of black women in the spotlight in her new exhibit, >Mentors, Muses and Celebrities. Known mostly for her rhinestone, acrylic and enamel paintings, here Thomas explores how gender and beauty are represented in modern society through film and video installations. Her twelve-minute, two-channel video projection Do I Look Like a Lady? features images of Eartha Kitt, Moms Mabley and Whitney Houston, all of them black women who attained a level of power and fame. Thomas draws equal inspiration from the three women at the heart of the film adaptation of The Color Purple, as played by Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg and Margaret Avery. The juxtaposition of three characters who had little to no power in their lives being portrayed by three exceptionally powerful women is the essence of Thomas' work. Who decides which women are beautiful? What is the source of their power? Who controls the image? Mickalene Thomas: Mentors, Muses and Celebrities opens with a free public reception at 7 p.m. tonight at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (3750 Washington Boulevard; www.camstl.org). The show remains up through December 31, and the museum is open Wednesday through Sunday.
— Paul Friswold

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