Racquel Chevremont and Mickalene Thomas fell for each other in 2011 in none other than the city of love; Paris. That summer, Thomas was an artist in residence at Claude Monet’s estate in Giverny while Chevremont was renting a flat in the city. The two had heard of each other and crossed paths for years in the art world. Chevremont was also a collector of Thomas’ artwork and served on the board of The Studio Museum where Thomas’ work was shown.
It was a meeting bound for destiny: when after trying to plan for a group dinner with fellow artists and colleagues, fate worked in their favor and it became a date for just the two. The rest of their story is a solid history culminating in their proposal story this past New Year’s Eve. Thomas proposed with a thoughtfully conceived set of two diamond rings made by Ippolita: one for everyday wear and one for those big nights out. The couple decided to photograph their story at their Connecticut home.
GRACE FULLER MARROQUÍN Where are you now?
RACQUEL CHEVREMONT We are generally based in New York, but given everything that has happened we went out to Salisbury, Connecticut and we’ve mainly been here since mid-March.
How is your routine and environment different than normal life for you?
RC First off, we have three kids. So obviously that has changed…we went from being women that worked in a professional capacity every day to being women that were still working but now in the home. We became cooks and cleaners and school teachers, and we still have to work!
Mickalene, as an artist, activist and black woman, how do you find your daily solace in these heavy times we are living in this country?
MT I think all of our lives are affected in various ways. As a black woman, black parent, black artist and black visionary, I am just like most people, ambiguous with some emotions about our uncertain future. The only thing I can do is try to create and take action with all that I know, by planning and building community around me and cultivating the community that I know and supporting them in their actions. Wherever my voice is needed, I see if that is the right avenue that I want to take, knowing that there have been systemic issues going on for a long time.
Racquel, how about you? What brings you daily peace?
RC A part of this is also visibility, so every chance we have to show the healthy, happy, smart, intelligent, professional side of who we are, as a people, out there on a platform, it has to create a change.
How did the two of you meet? When did you fall in love?
MT We’ve known each other for a long time. Racquel sat on the board of Studio Museum in Harlem and she was a collector of my work. I was going to a residency in Giverny, France. She had found out that I was going there and was renting a flat in Paris during that same summer of 2011, for herself and her kids to get out of the country for a bit. We had a conversation about connecting and we were trying to coordinate a dinner with a lot of other African American artists that were there. [But] no one really showed up but me. Something did spark then! When we were back in New York, there was a series of things she invited me to as her plus one. At first it was a lot of flirting and courting and we felt something, but we didn’t necessarily pursue it and Racquel was the one who made the first move. Once she gave me the OK, it was no turning back. She kind of like… kissed me, and I kind of…melted. There were a lot of other complications then but we decided to be a unit and we made it happen. And it’s been really, really fantastic.
“I had never considered wanting a diamond. For me it was about finding and learning about different jewelers that are ethical, but now I can really appreciate these diamonds.”
Will you tell me a bit about your proposal story?
RC That was actually this past New Year’s Eve. We took our time. Mickalene had been sneaking around to Ippolita without me knowing and had been thinking about rings. New Year’s Eve, we went out, and afterward we were in our living room and Mickalene came and sat next to me, handed me a box, and asked, “will you marry me?”
Where did you shoot these photos?
MT The inspiration was to really show the intimacy between me and Racquel in our environment at home. We have a really great compound here. There’s a pond and a swing, and there’s a pool and all of these spaces where we share our time with each other.
RC This was the first home that we got together that was ours for us and our children. It’s a peaceful sanctuary for ourselves now.
Can you tell us a bit about the pieces you shot?
RC We have a couple of bracelets that we got from Apriati, which is a Greek company. Every time we go to Paris we buy these bracelets with each other and for each other. They have diamonds, black diamonds, other types of stones or gold. The other are my engagement rings which Ippolita had commissioned for me. There are two different ones, there’s a smaller one for everyday use and then there’s a larger one for those evenings out.
What do diamonds mean to you?
RC Probably that first ring (from Ippolita) I got Mickalene was the first time she wore diamonds.
What do you think is the most important part of the diamond engagement ring buying process?
MT For me, I was wanting to work with a woman for the pieces. My first ring from Racquel was an Ippolita ring and for me it was all full circle. That was how we came about the circle idea and how we think about the union and a bond is all a circle.
RC We also know that she’s ethical and sources all of her diamonds in an ethical way and she works with a lot of women which is important to us.