Amy Sherald: In Conversation

/ Virtual Programs

The BMA was pleased to welcome American painter Amy Sherald as the speaker of its 2020 Chenoweth Lecture.

This virtual conversation with Sherald was led by Curator of Contemporary Art Hallie Ringle and our Manager of Public Programs Carey Fountain. They discussed Amy’s work, studio practice, her iconic portraits ,and her piece All Things Bright and Beautiful, which is currently on view in our Pizitz Gallery as a part of our All Things Bright and Beautiful exhibition.

A native of Columbus, Georgia, painter Amy Sherald received her BA in painting from Clark Atlanta University in 1997, thereafter apprenticing with Arturo Lindsay, professor of art at Spelman College. Winner of the National Portrait Gallery’s prestigious Outwin Boochever Portraiture Competition (2015) and the High Museum of Art’s David C. Driskell Prize (2018).

Sherald was thrust into the national spotlight when she was commissioned to paint First Lady Michelle Obama’s official portrait for the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. Reflecting on seeing her portrait at the National Portrait Gallery, Michelle Obama said: “I’m also thinking about all the young people, particularly girls, and girls of color, who in years ahead will come to this place and they will look up and they will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the wall of this great American institution. I know the kind of impact that will have on their lives, because I was one of those girls.”

Of the painting All Things Bright and Beautiful, Naima Green wrote in The New York Times, “Ms. Sherald’s portraits typically feature a single black person who looks directly at the viewer. Her subjects are not positioned in remarkable poses. In one painting, a young girl stands with her arms dangling. In another, a girl blocks the sun from her eyes. . . Visualizations of blackness are almost always imbued with political meaning, but Ms. Sherald presents the interior lives of her figures without editorializing about them. Still, there is something confrontational about how Ms. Sherald’s subjects are almost always facing head-on, evaluating the viewer from the canvas. The paintings demand that the viewers see the humanity on display. The subjects are real people, and they see us looking at them. It is impossible to look away.”

The Chenoweth lectures are endowed by Dr. Arthur I. Chenoweth as a memorial to his brother and parents. The purpose of the lectures is to encourage international understanding through the presentation of a variety of subjects by specialists in their fields.