Mickalene Thomas (b. 1971) Panthera, 2002 Rhinestones on acrylic on birch panel 48 × 72 in. The Studio Museum in Harlem; Museum purchase with funds provided by the Acquisition Committee 2003.10.9

The rhinestones in Panthera create a shimmering effect, but a deeper meaning underlies the painting’s attractive surface. An artist who explores complex notions of gender, sexuality, and representation across media, Mickalene Thomas has described the panther as a symbol of Black female representation. Here, Thomas gives visual prominence to the physical prowess of the cat, demonstrating that beauty can accompany strength.