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Maker(s):Thomas, Mickalene
Culture:American (1971-)
Title:Madame Mama Bush
Date Made:2006
Materials:Chromogenic print
Measurements:Frame: 18 11/16 in x 22 3/16 in x 1 3/4 in; 47.5 cm x 56.4 cm x 4.4 cm; Mount: 15 1/4 x 18 3/4 in; 38.7 x 47.6 cm; Image: 15 1/4 x 18 3/4 in; 38.7 x 47.6 cm
Narrative Inscription:  EDITION/SIGNATURE/DATE: verso, lwr. r. (black ink): Ed. 3/6 M. Thomas 2006
Accession Number:  UM 2014.4
Credit Line:Purchase with Art Acquistion Funds
Museum Collection:  University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMASS Amherst

Label Text:
Exhibtion label text from Faint/Hidden/Shrouded: Contemplating Obscurity (March 27-May 10, 2024):
Madame Mama Bush captures the essence of Mickalene Thomas's exploration of the complexities of Black and female identity. Thomas presents her mother and muse, Sandra Bush, within the intimate and lush setting of the artist's studio.

Known for her large-scale mixed-media paintings, photographs, films, and installations, Thomas delves into the historical complexities surrounding the Black female form—often caricatured, appropriated, and marginalized within the Western art tradition. Madame Mama Bush becomes a powerful reclamation of agency as Thomas situates her Black protagonists within the framework of the Western painting tradition. - Graduate curators: Ruthie Baker, MFA Studio Arts; Simone Cambridge, MA History of Art & Architecture; and Olivia Haynes PhD in the W.E.B. DuBois Department of Afro-American Studies, UMASS

Drawing inspiration from iconic white female nudes such as Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s La Grande Odalisque (1814) and Édouard Manet's Olympia (1863), Thomas skillfully mimics their poses. Through her deliberate reappropriation, Mickalene Thomas confronts and rejects the historical obscurity and abstraction imposed on Black women’s bodies.

Exhibition Label, 40 Years / 40 Artists, January 22–March 8, 2015:
Mickalene Thomas’ depictions of African American women explore a spectrum of black female beauty and sexual identity while constructing images of femininity and power. She is best known for her elaborate collage-like portraits composed of rhinestones, acrylic and enamel.
This photograph is a celebration of the artist’s mother and muse, Sandra Bush, a former fashion model and recovered drug addict. - Loretta Yarlow

Speak to Me of Rivers: An Exploration of Race, Identity, and Lived Experience in African American Culture; February 12 - March 3, 2019:
Mickalene Thomas: “How does it feel to be my muse?”
Mama Bush: “It feels good to know that I will live on and be remembered eons from now.”
Mickalene Thomas: “To work with you makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something.”
Mama Bush: “My daughter, you have made me the model of the art world.”

domestic space; fashion; feminism; interiors; nudes; sexuality; African American; pose

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1 Related People

Thomas, Mickalene
American (1971-)
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