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Virginia MOCA’s Summer Exhibitions Celebrate Contemporary Photography with Renowned Artist Mickalene Thomas and a Journey Through the South

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Dot Greene
PR & Marketing Specialist
757-425-0000 x321




Virginia MOCA’s Summer Exhibitions Celebrate Contemporary Photography with Renowned Artist Mickalene Thomas and a Journey Through the South


(Virginia Beach, Va.) Apr. 13, 2017 — The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) announces the opening of their Summer Exhibitions on view May 12 through Aug. 13, 2017, celebrating the art form of photography with renowned artist Mickalene Thomas in, Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs and tête-à-tête. In addition, MOCA presents Southern Routes, an exhibition that captures the culture and landscape of the American South through photography, and an Open (C)all exhibition of local artists who explore their identities through the camera’s lens.


Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs honors the work of this internationally renowned artist. Thomas, known for her large-scale, multi-textured paintings of domestic interiors and portraits, also identifies the photographic image as a defining touchstone for her practice. In Muse, the artist carefully constructs images within the confines of her studio space as a tool for exploration and inspiration. Her collection of muses includes herself, her mother, her friends and lovers. An installation that replicates a corner of her studio, frequently used as the set for her photographs, will accompany this exhibition.


Alongside Muse is an exhibition within an exhibition titled tête-à-tête. This smaller exhibition, curated by Mickalene Thomas, contains work from well-known photographers who have inspired her. These pieces accentuate the dialogue within Thomas’ photographs. Artists include Derrick Adams; Renée Cox; LaToya Ruby Frazier; Lyle Ashton Harris; Deana Lawson; Zanele Muholi; Malick Sidibé; Xaviera Simmons; Hank Willis Thomas; and Carrie Mae Weems.


Celebrating the region MOCA calls home is an exhibition titled Southern Routes, exploring back roads, communities, and moments that frame the lexicon of culture in the American South. The exhibition features ten contemporary photographers Kelly Berry; Eliot Dudik; Grant Ellis; Tammy Mercure; Kate Medley; Brian Palmer; Tamara Reynolds; Kathleen Robbins; Jerry Siegel; and Aaron Turner.


Southern Routes compliments an exhibition MOCA presented in the spring of 2000, titled Southern Exposure. MOCA’s curator at the time, Carla Hanzal, created this exhibition using images from artists who stand as pioneers and icons of southern photography.


Concluding this photo-centric summer suite is an Open (C)all exhibition in MOCA’s Community Gallery. Local artists and image makers across coastal Virginia identify themselves through their own photographic practice.


MOCA will also screen, A Spoken Dish daily in the Price Auditorium. A joint endeavor from Georgia Organics, Southern Foodways Alliance, and Whole Foods Market, A Spoken Dish is a storytelling project dedicated to celebrating and documenting food, memories, and rituals from people across the South. Storytellers include professional chefs, farmers, artists, and children. Produced by Southern Routes artist Kate Medley, the films reveal heartfelt stories about the Civil Rights Movement, Hurricane Katrina, the Great Migration, paw paws, gumbo, and more.


The Museum will present a diverse array of educational programs inspired by these exhibitions to the public. Highlights include:

Artist Talk with Southern Routes artist Brian Palmer

Jun. 1 | 6:30pm
Palmer is a visual journalist based in Richmond, Virginia. His photographs have appeared in the New York TimesBuzzfeed, Narrative.lyPixel Press, and other outlets. Palmer is currently working on a documentary about a historic black community, uprooted during World War II to build a naval base, now a top-secret U.S. military installation.

Brian Palmer Master Class

Jun. 3 | 10am-3pm

Southern Fare: Style & Shoot Master Class

Jul. 7 | 10:30am-2pm

Food styling and photography workshop with Mary Kaufman of Bluebird’s Garage and photographer Zoe Grant. In partnership with Esoteric Restaurant.


Community Voices Panel Discussion
Jul. 18 | 6:30pm
A discussion of race, gender, and identity in relation to Mickalene Thomas’s exhibition, moderated by Barbara Hamm Lee of Another View: A call-in show on WHRV 89.5 that discusses today’s topics from an African-American perspective.


A Taste of the South with Southern Routes artist Kate Medley 

Aug. 3 | 6:30-9pm
Medley’s tales of the South unfold at an evening event filled with art, music, food, beverages, and culture in celebration of the Southern Routes exhibition.


MOCA + Story Exchange: Muse 

Aug. 10 | 6:30pm
MOCA and the Story Exchange present five local artists turning five local stories of inspiration and motivation into art, exploring the theme of muses.

MOCA’s Summer Exhibitions will debut on Thursday, May 11 with an opening reception starting at 6:30 p.m., in collaboration with 757 Collective, featuring fine fare, a cash bar, and complimentary valet. Tickets are free for MOCA members, $10 for non-members and may be purchased online at or by calling 757-425-0000.

For more information about the exhibitions, visit MOCA’s website at

Muse: Mickalene Thomas photographs and tête-à-tête is organized by Aperture Foundation, New York. The exhibition is supported, in part, by The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Inc.

About the Artist: Mickalene Thomas (born in Camden, New Jersey, 1971) earned her BFA in painting at Pratt Institute in 2000 and an MFA at the Yale University School of Art in 2002. Thomas participated in residencies at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, 2000–2003, and at the Versailles Foundation Munn Artists Program, Giverny, France, 2011. Her work has been included in countless exhibitions worldwide, including at La Conservera, Ceutí, Spain (2009); National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. (2010); Hara Museum, Tokyo (2011); Santa Monica Museum of Art, California (2012); and Brooklyn Museum (2012–13). She is represented by Lehmann Maupin in New York, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, and Galerie Nathalie Obadia in Paris.

About MOCA

The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), located in Virginia Beach, is a non-profit that exists to foster awareness, exploration and understanding of the significant art of our time. MOCA is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). As Virginia's only museum dedicated solely to the exhibition of contemporary art, MOCA encourages visitors to discover and explore art and to engage in hands-on art experiences.


MOCA is located at 2200 Parks Ave., at the entrance of I-264 in Virginia Beach. The Museum is open Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Admission is $7.70 for adults and $5.50 for seniors/65+, students (includes children 5 and up) and active military. MOCA members and children four and under are admitted free of charge.


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