Amy Sherald Changed The Art World for Black Women

Izzy Rivera

Staff Writer

To celebrate Black History Month I wanted to focus on a female Black artist who changed the painting world as we know it. Amy Sherald is an American painter who specializes in focusing on the injustice present in Black culture, creating portraits with grey scale skin tones. She is currently 47 years old and she’s from Columbus, GA but currently resides in Baltimore. She attended Clark Atlanta University and Maryland Institute College of Art, receiving a B.A. degree in painting from Clark and a MFA degree in painting from Maryland. Her style is simplified realism, involving staged photographs of her subjects. Sherald’s purpose is to focus on the fact that the tone of someone’s skin should not be their utmost defining factor. This painter is most known for her official portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama which was first unveiled in 2018. It is currently in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C and was done with oil paint and linen. The likeness of the First Lady is breathtaking and the colors used are very calming and pleasing to the eye. 

She was interviewed by CBS Sunday Morning and when asked why she paints “everyday people”, she responded “I’m painting the paintings that I want to see in museums. And I’m hopefully presenting them in a way that’s universal enough that they become representative of something different than just a black body on a canvas.” This is quite inspiring to artists and the general public because it proves that she is trying to approach this topic in a different way but with utmost respect, she wants her paintings of course to represent something important but have the focus be skewed slightly. 

Having a new perspective put into the social pool of this topic helps broaden people’s ideas in ways that may have not previously been achievable. If you were to visit her website you would continue to see sensational portraits of people dressed in different outfits and holding different things, but all of them are confrontational in the best way possible. Each person depicted is staring straight at the viewer, not in a challenging sense but in a way that makes one stop and think of what this person’s life is like, what their morals are, and what their background is. 

Having art that makes you stop and think is some of the most impressionable experiences out there, and the fact that Sherald is able to do this in her work is thrilling. Overall, she is paving a path for other Black artists to follow if they choose, making her an important part of history. She is making people think, reflect, and respond because of her pieces, and causing a conversation is arguably a very successful avenue. It’s exciting to see new artists pop up on the scene and cause a change, and the way she is doing it seems to be revolutionary. To see more of her work visit her website shown below, as well as the interview she did with CBS.

The interview:

Her Website:


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