Friday, April 4, 2014

Landscape Through the Eyes of New York-based Artist

My photo of a portion of Mikalene Thomas' "faux real" installation at the Norton Museum of Art.
I was pleasantly surprised when I heard I could see one of Mikalene Thomas' creations here in South Florida. The New York-based mixed-media artist created "faux real," a vinyl mural composed of digital images and photographs depicting a landscape along with items such as faux linoleum and collage material, in different shapes and sizes. It's the third site specific artwork for the Norton Museum of Art's lobby installation series. And it's the first mural-sized artwork Thomas created outside of New York.

In a video produced by WPBT2, she said she has been working with landscape images since 2008; her first landscape was based on Hudson River School paintings she was interested in. It was thought-provoking to see this particular interpretation of landscape. Living in South Florida, I connected with images such as the ocean and palm trees, as well as mixtures of different faux materials with the natural scenery, as life can sometimes seem as a false reality, and indeed abstract. Thomas used the latest techniques in digital manipulation in the process of creating the mural.

A once artist in residence at The Versailles Foundation Munn Artists Program in Giverny, France and a graduate of Pratt Institute and Yale University, Thomas is best known for her elaborate figurative paintings of African-American women examining themes such as feminism and popular culture including celebrity. Popular culture has embraced Thomas as she was one of the featured artists in Jay-Z's music video "Picasso Baby" and BET's "The Artist's Way."

In February, "Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Woman," debuted on HBO. It's a documentary about Thomas' mother, Sandra Bush, who had a career as a runway model with aspirations of becoming a supermodel. Though, it would be her daughter who would make her famous, as she was the subject of many of Thomas' works.

"faux real" will be on display at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach through Aug. 31.

Thomas explains her mural in a video by WPBT2 -- a South Florida PBS station

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