Roundtable Discussion: Mickalene Thomas

This summer we sat around a table with Shumate Council members, Wex staff, and a few community members, to discuss Mickalene Thomas’ work and the Wexner Center’s upcoming exhibition Mickalene Thomas: I Can’t See You Without Me. The discussion began as a formal presentation about the work, then quickly morphed into a deeper discussion about representation, identity, process, and making and taking up space.


Here’s what we heard…

“I think of Mickalene Thomas’ work as whirlwind of activity”

“This is a show about relationships.”

“That was the tool that Mickalene had—she could look.”

“To see yourself and for others to see you is a validation.” –Mickalene Thomas

“You have to be in the room with these objects. They are the most compelling things I’ve ever seen.” —Michael Goodson

“I do not talk about art that way.”—Kim Brazwell  (referencing the intellectual way of presenting art)

“You can’t believe in yourself if you can’t see yourself in images. That’s why I make what I make. It’s about me waiting to see myself and claim spaces that have been void for so long. Present images so that little girls go to museums they can look up and see themselves. I am here.” –Mickalene Thomas

“There isn’t a relationship in the world that isn’t complicated. This work explores that.”

“The gaze is meant to empower the sitter.”

“There’s something about having access to interact with the art.”—Melissa Crum

“So much of this show is about a sense of belonging. However, what do you when you feel like you are included but you do not belong? You can create inclusivity without necessarily creating a space where people feel like they belong.”-Kent Harris

“It’s easy to go into an art space and feel like you are the spectacle (not the art).”

“Don’t feel like you have to know all of the answers. Don’t feel like you have to know…”

“It is a disservice if we do not help visitors leave the space without thinking about more than the art.”

“What are the trauma associations?”

“Can we come from a more emotional place in addition to the technical side?”

“How do we meet people where they are?”


Mickalene Thomas: I Can’t See You Without Me is on view at the Wexner Center for the Arts. Visit for more details:

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