Urgent Museum Notice

A-E-I-O-U and Sometimes Y

Close up of A-E-I-O-U and Sometimes Y

A mixed-media artwork renders the contours of an African American woman’s facial features, shoulders, and long, straight hair in black rhinestones on a glossy, bubble-gum pink panel. The woman faces forward, gazing outward. Some rhinestone facets glint with reflected light.

Mickalene Thomas, A-E-I-O-U and Sometimes Y, 2009; Plastic rhinestones, acrylic, and enamel on panel, 24 x 20 x 1 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Deborah Carstens; © Mickalene Thomas, Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin: Photo by Lee Stalsworth

A-E-I-O-U and Sometimes Y
Mickalene Thomas

Mickalene Thomas explores and expands traditional notions of female identity and beauty through her rhinestone-encrusted depictions of African American women. The artist draws inspiration from art history and popular culture, so her imagery is as likely to reference nineteenth-century painting as blaxploitation films of the seventies. A-E-I-O-U and Sometimes Y, originally exhibited as part of a forty-panel installation at Lehmann Maupin gallery in New York, recalls Andy Warhol’s photo-booth portraits. The title of the work pays homage to “AEIOU and Sometimes Y,” a dance-club and MTV-hit in 1983 for the two-man group Ebn-Ozn. Thomas often titles her works after songs in this way.

Working from a digital projection of a photo-booth snapshot of her model Fran, Thomas outlined her subject’s contours in black rhinestones using chopsticks. For Thomas, rhinestones are a surrogate for the masking, dressing up, and beautifying that women practice. At first glance, the glossy pink panel looks perfectly uniform, as if machine-made. Closer inspection reveals subtle color variations and paint layers that confirm Thomas’s creative presence.

Artwork Details

  • Artist

    Mickalene Thomas
  • Title

    A-E-I-O-U and Sometimes Y
  • Date

  • Medium

    Acrylic paint, Enamel on panel, Plastic rhinestones
  • Dimensions

    24 x 20 in.
  • Donor Credit

    Gift of Deborah Carstens
  • Photo Credit

    © Mickalene Thomas, Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin: Photo by Lee Stalsworth
  • On Display