Playlist: Music & the art of Mickalene Thomas

Curated by Simone C. Drake, PhD

Oct 15, 2018

Artist Mickalene Thomas' Painting of a black woman posing on a couch with her foot raised in a collage of colorful materials


Dr. Simone C. Drake, chair of Ohio State's Department of African American and African Studies, recently led a gallery talk exploring the work in Mickalene Thomas: I Can’t See You Without Me through various lenses including the look and sound of funk music. Below, Dr. Drake offers a powerhouse playlist in response to the exhibition and a few words on the selections and progression.

The selected tracks draw on the artwork curated in the exhibit I Can’t See You Without Me. The selection is conceptual, representing three different aspects of the exhibit. The creative independence of Betty Davis’ funk draws on the 1970s nostalgia of the installations and tableaux. Some tracks are literally the titles of Thomas’s art— soul, R&B, and rock songs that share names with her work. Other tracks tap into the essence of Thomas’s “muse work,” capturing the bold statement made by centering black women and their relationships with themselves and other black women.

What emerges is the attitude of blues songstresses, the echoes of freedom in civil rights ballads and contemporary pop anthems, good ole fashion dance music, and songs celebrating the beauty of black womanhood and black women’s love affairs, much like the muses informing Thomas’s work.