Yesterday the Obamas (we miss you please comeback) unveiled their own portraits at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. Trailblazing Kehinde Wiley had the pleasure of depicting President Barack Obama, and the captivating Amy Sherald handled the image of the first lady. Both paintings created another celebratory moment in black history, as the married couple was brought to life on canvas like never seen before.
Which caused us to start doing some digging on who this beautiful, talented, and down right amazing artist was by the name of Amy Sherald. Here are a few things about her you should know
Her family wanted her to be a dentist
Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times
As a child Amy had a natural attraction to art, however her family hoped she’d follow in the footsteps of her father and become a dentist. She says art was her safe haven, as she was always an introvert at heart.
Sherald manages a form of heart disease known as cardiomyopathy
AMY SHERALD, IN DEPTH BY JOAN COX
The artist recalls a near death situation on her way to purchase art supplies in 2012 to Baltimore Magazine. After being told she was a 30 year old with the heart of an 80 year old, Sherald knew how to monitor signs until an incident on October 12th. The artist found herself passed out on the floor in her local Rite Aid.
“I felt like I could die then. I actually felt that for the first time, and it did scare me. I thought, ‘I can’t be afraid to die,’ so I just made peace with it at that moment. I said, ‘I’m not going to be afraid, it’s all going to be okay.”
Two months later she would under go transplant surgery, which halted her passion for art for nearly three years.
She’s an HBCU graduate
Sherald studied painting at Clark Atlanta University, and went on to obtain her master’s degree at Maryland Institute College of Art.
Her style is inspired by vintage photos of black families
The artist says to NPR:
After the invention of the camera when black families were finally able to photograph themselves in the ways that they wanted to be represented and I was able to look at those images and see myself in a way that was extricated from the dominant historical narrative – those are things that I thought about. And I think that when I looked around to see what work was being made and what conversations were being had amongst my contemporaries and, as a young artist, being influenced by American realism, I saw that there was a gap that I could fit myself into as a figurative painter. As a black woman and somebody who paints Americans, that narrative of images of us just being us were things that I wanted to see exist, you know, within the museum institutions.
View more of Amy’s work HERE
Before painting Michelle, Sherald had quite the resume
Photo by Victoria L. Valentine
In 1997 Amy Sherald served as an International Artist-in-Residence in Panama on behalf of Spelman College. She then went on to become the first woman to win the Outwit Boochever Portrait Competition. From there she’s been featured in various solo exhibitions, with residences in countries ranging from China to Norway. Her work can be found in the Embassy of the United States in Dakar, Senegal, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, The Columbus Museum and more.