Interview with Mickalene Thomas

The Laundromat Project commissions awesome New York City artists to make special edition prints and design merchandise. The sale of these items helps The LP bring fun, accessible, community-responsive arts programming to laundromats and other public spaces across the city. To purchase a print or tote bag, please click here.

Tell us about your LP commissioned print.

“Kalena” is based on a collage that I made from a photograph taken during a photo shoot where I was working specifically with trans-gender models. Something about the hyper-femininity of Kalena in particular made me want to get a little bolder with the materials. I love how the print is a very simple digital archival print but then is finished with gaudy sparkling red glitter on her lips!

What inspired you to support The Laundromat Project?

When board member Naomi Beckwith asked if I could support The Laundromat Project I was just really excited to be able to get behind such a great idea. Since then, as I’ve seen the incredible range of projects and events put on by The Laundromat Project, I have come to believe that it is really a meaningful and original way to get actual art practices out into the communities all around the city.

Tell us about your neighborhood

I moved to Fort Greene almost three years ago with the idea that it would be a great neighborhood for starting a family and now I have a five-month old daughter!

What’s your favorite thing about it?

The corner coffee shop, Smooch, on my block is the best. It’s truly a neighborhood meeting place–just don’t go there if you’re in a hurry because they’re serious about making each and every coffee special and that can take a minute.

What one thing would you change about your neighborhood?

We could use some more good restaurants- we have a couple good ones but some of them have just been around too long. There’s the Brooklyn Sandwich Society that’s making great sandwiches and interesting small plates in the evening- I’d like to see more places like that.

Mickalene Thomas (center) with executive director Kemi Ilesanmi and Create Change alumna Nontsikelelo Mutiti
Mickalene Thomas (center) with executive director Kemi Ilesanmi and Create Change alumna Nontsikelelo Mutiti

Who are your neighbors?

My neighbors are actually my favorite part of my neighborhood; actors, writers, artists, community organizers, all kinds of interesting people!

Where do you do your laundry?

I’m lucky enough to have a washer and dryer in my basement.

What are you reading now?

I’ve been reading Anaïs Nin’s diaries for a while. I love her ideas about living as a creative person and I am in awe of the discipline it took for her to write so extensively about her own life.

What’s your favorite sound, texture or color?

The sound of the ocean. Pounding waves or just barely lapping on the shore, I love all the sounds the ocean makes.

What song gets you going when work is hard?

Right now I’m loving Frank Ocean’s “Pyramids.”

What’s your favorite New York movie?

I’m still a big fan of Woody Allen’s “Bullets Over Broadway.”

What most inspires your work?

The women in my life are really the greatest inspiration for my work. The women I know and love now give me my energy and the women I grew up with, their memory, drives me to work harder.

What your favorite thing about printmaking?

I love the set process of printmaking. The specific structure and method to different printmaking processes give me something to play with and react against. But I also enjoy the elaborate processes involved, the slow, methodical way that printmaking is approached, particularly stone lithography.

What are you working on now?

I am actually headed to Senegal to visit the American Embassy in Dakar to start the process for a large-scale public mural I will be creating for the exterior wall of the embassy. This will be my first public work outside the United States and I am very excited to be working with mosaic tiles for the first time and on such a large scale.

Any current or upcoming show/performance you want to recommend?

I want to go see Christian Marclay’s “The Clock” at MoMA. I’ve heard it’s fantastic and as someone who loves film, I think it’s a must-see.

Learn about Mickalene Thomas by visiting her website.

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