Mickalene Thomas has completed two new prints with Durham Press: Interior: Fireplace with Blackbird and Interior: Blue Couch and Green Owl. Based on collaged paintings the artists created in 2012 and 2014, respectively, the two new works combine a multitude of processes and elements, including screenprint, woodblock, wood veneer, etching, flocking, gold leaf, and digital printing. Each print measures 42 3/8 x 34 1/4 inches and is published in an edition of 26.
Both Interiors depict mid-century living rooms, which Thomas encountered in The Practical Encyclopedia of Good Decorating and Home Improvement, an eighteen volume book set from the early 1970s that instructs readers how to design and care for domestic spaces. The artist used these found photographs as the basis for each composition and added her own imagery and various textures. Thomas has linked her interest in these images of interiors to both the landscape and portraiture traditions. Her collage technique emphasizes the dynamic angular lines of each image and layers together different perspectives to create complex spatial relationships. The incorporation of natural elements—from the greenery and terrain visible through the windows to the representations of birds—further evokes the sense of an expansive environment.
Though neither Blue Couch and Green Owl nor Fireplace with Blackbird feature any people, the prints closely relate to Thomas’s portraiture practice. In her Interiors, the architecture, furniture, and the decorations of everyday spaces are entry points from which to explore questions of personal perception, self representation, and the gaze. “Oftentimes the interior landscape is created as a sort of mask,” she said of Blue Couch, “A way of not only hiding what is beneath the surface, but also of projecting an image of beauty, power, or elegance.” These particular interiors, however, are not rooms inhabited by specific people or families, but idealized—or once-idealized—rooms that serve as exemplars of “good housekeeping.” As such, these fractured, amalgamated interiors also examine the collective facades that inform our individual notions of home.
The Interiors, as well as other prints by Thomas, are available directly through Durham Press. For more information, including pricing, please contact Gwyneth Fearnhead