Amy Sherald is a Baltimore-based painter who is known for her portraits that are painted in her signature grayscale, and set against simplistic, yet vibrant backgrounds. Sherald grew up in Georgia, where the performative aspects of race and Southernness influenced not only her concept of identity, but also her subject matter as an artist. But her work is not just about identity, it is also about the inclusion of Black people in mainstream art in a universal way that does not focus solely on the black or brownness of skin, therefore challenging assumptions about blackness and its representation in art.
Sherald also notes that she aspires to “create unseen narratives,” depicting the hidden inner lives and interiority of her subjects beyond the perceived radicalness of a Black subject. She brought all of this and more into the official portrait of Michelle Obama that is part of the Clark Collection but hangs in the National Gallery. This forward-thinking portrait is much like Obama herself in its ability to inspire the viewer into a sense of awe as well as a sense of mystery as to what the former First Lady has experienced before, during, and after her tenure in the White House.