Mickalene Thomas

I’ve been fascinated by Mickalene Thomas since I saw her piece at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond this spring.  I’ve seen a few of her pieces in person since then, and have found her interiors particularly interesting.  Thomas’s work in her portraits and her interiorscapes is often lush and richly materialed.

Sleep: Deux Femmes Noires

Mickalene Thomas’s Sleep: Deux Femmes Noires at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston

I have found myself increasingly compelled by the creative capacity of material culture in my own  life: drawn to textile and ceramic and the richness of interior space.  A year or two ago on one of my many visits to the Baltimore Museum of Art’s inimitable Cone Collection, it occurred to me how important surrounding himself with material culture — and particularly textiles — had been in Matisse’s work, and how resonant that feels in my own creative life.

Thomas’s work has always struck me as falling into this same lineage.  Full of the energy of material, both in her subject and her technique.

So I was delighted to see this video of Thomas’s home this week.  (And it includes a Matisse!)

For more on Mickalene Thomas and her work, I was fascinated by her reflections on interior space and her own artistic evolution in this interview.


Hey Baltimore & DC, What a Weekend!

Baltimore and DC, you all have the best weekend coming.  Jonathan Harper’s new collection Daydreamers comes out tomorrow and One More Page Books in Falls Church is feting the launch with a 5:00 reading and party.  You can (and should) buy this fantastic new book and put it at the top of your list for spring reading.


The BMA is also getting in on the weekend action with a Contemporary Print Fair on Saturday and Sunday, which is an terrific opportunity to pick up original new art and see and support contemporary talents.

And up the road, the Smith College Club is hosting its inimitable and enormous annual book sale all weekend.

Smith College Book Sale 2015

And because this weekend really is the best, you can continue the party with a Silent Art Auction and Celebration of the Arts gala (complete with emerging performing artists), brought to you from my old friends at the Howard County Arts Council.  Tickets start at just $50 — a steal!

Zoe Leonard

Walking through the Baltimore Museum of Art’s exhibit on ordinary objects last week, I paused in front of Zoe Leonard’s “Untitled,” a collection of fruit peels stitched back together.

I think I must have first seen Leonard’s piece back in 2006, and I remember being struck by it that first time I saw it.  The fruit peels, though sewn back together, haven’t been preserved, and so they are always changing and decomposing, even as we look.  There’s an immediacy in relating with this piece.  You’re always witnessing it as it exists in the moment, and in that moment only, so that engaging with this piece feels a bit like meditating.  There’s a way that time dilates to absorb its details.

On this most recent visit, I noticed how much Leonard’s work has changed since I first saw it.  I can see how it’s evolved, decomposed, color-shifted, re-textured.

It feels very moving to have a long-time relationship with a piece like this.




The renovations to the BMA’s contemporary wing were completed a little while ago, but I still hadn’t had a chance to visit it.  So when friends came up from Virginia for brunch, it was the perfect opportunity.

As part of its renovation, the museum commissioned Sarah Oppenheimer to create an Architectural Intervention.  Oppenheimer’s design opens up unexpected spaces between the rooms and floors in the gallery.  So that you catch yourself looking through one room and — through an angled opening — suddenly into another, or up two floors and into a mirror, through which you can see other people looking down and glimpsing you.

The response this elicits is fascinating.  You experience a painting differently when catching it in this momentary, fragmented way.  And there is also a surprised warmth in finding yourself looking at one another as fellow museum goers.  Passing one Oppenheimer cutout, a little girl saw me, took a minute, and then waved.  Later, when we looked down through a system of mirrors at another trio of adults, both our groups exchanged extemporaneous beams.

The BMA talks about its Oppenheimer work in art historical and communal terms:

“Applied to museums, Oppenheimer’s work reflects a rethinking of conventions for organizing art room-by-room according to time period and geographic location.  New opportunities to see through architectural boundaries yield juxtapositions of objects that suggest the fluidity of art history.  These unexpected gallery encounters also draw attention to the importance of a community of viewers in bringing the institution and its collections to life.”