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Kehinde Wiley

Portrait of Mickalene Thomas, the Coyote


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In this monumental portrait, Kehinde Wiley depicts fellow artist and friend Mickalene Thomas striking a dramatic pose while standing before a theatrical landscape. Wiley typically selects anonymous people to be his subjects, highlighting the lives of everyday Black figures in larger-than-life scale, but here he has chosen to heroicize one of his peers. The painting is part of Wiley's Trickster series, which includes representations of several acclaimed contemporary Black visual artists. The title refers to the archetype of the trickster—a fictitious, boundary-crossing animal that often takes on human-like roles-common in many cultures' folklore. Thomas is accompanied here by two coyotes, prominent trickster figures in the mythology of Indigenous peoples of the North American Plains, California, and Southwest. These shapeshifting creatures are often victorious in ways that change the course of history, altering how we think and see the world around us. Wiley employs the trickster throughout this series as a metaphor for the role of the artist as well as a direct reference to, as he states, "the African American tradition of using shapeshifting as means of survival." [Permanent collection label, 2023]

  • Artist Kehinde Wiley (American, b. 1977)
  • Title Portrait of Mickalene Thomas, the Coyote
  • Date 2017
  • Medium Oil on canvas, in artist's frame
  • Dimensions framed | 130 3/8 x 94 7/8 x 4 1/2 in.
  • Credit line Long-term loan, private collection
  • Object number 143.2023
  • Currently on View James M. Kemper Gallery, Room 3

New Acquisitions in Contemporary Art
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 07/19/2023 James M. Kemper Gallery, Room 3

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