Exposed Mom as Sultry Muse, Amusement Parks: Chelsea Art

Mickalene Thomas’s large-scale
photographs of a regal black woman greet visitors at Lehmann
Maupin gallery in Chelsea.

The subject is depicted spread out on a couch with her
breasts exposed and sitting primly with a red dress pulled over
her knees. This is the artist’s mother and muse, Sandra Bush,
who passed away this year at age 61.

Photographed over time in a variety of guises, Bush always
conveys a mix of pride, vulnerability and seduction.

Having frequently appeared in Thomas’s richly textured,
rhinestone-studded paintings, Bush is also the focus of her
daughter’s first short documentary film.

It’s a moving, intimate portrait of a woman who aspired to
be a model, walked out on an abusive husband and overcame drug
addiction. The interview format is softened with old black-and-
white family photographs and film footage of fashion shows,
birthday parties and a hospital bed.


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