Amy Sherald
American painter based in Baltimore, Maryland



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Amy Sherald
American painter based in Baltimore, Maryland
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When Michelle Obama describes you as "fly," you’re probably winning at life, and we can confidently say that about Amy Sherald.

Born in Columbus, GA, Sherald holds a BFA from Clark Atlanta University and a MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art. Initially a pre-med major at Clark Atlanta University, Sherald couldn’t ignore her real passion in life. She changed her major during her junior year of college and seriously started pursuing painting. The talented artist shot to fame when she made history as the first African American artist to be commissioned to paint the first lady by the National Portrait Gallery.

Sherald paints portraits of African American subjects, a group that has been overlooked and underrepresented in art history. Sherald explains, she is attempting to make up for lost time with her paintings. Portrayed in grayscale, the figures in her works are engaged in everyday activities. The gray skin tone was an intentional decision according to the artist as she wanted to challenge “the concept of color-as-race”. She wants her works to be read universally rather than just through the lens of identity. Before gaining international fame with her painting of Michelle Obama, Sherald received critical notice when she won the 2016 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition Award for Miss Everything.

Although the artist appears perfectly healthy, she suffers from a condition that almost took her life. The artist was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy at the age of 30. Her heart complications culminated at a moment in Rite Aid, during a visit for art supplies, where she suffered erratic palpitations and then blacked out. After passing out she was rushed to Johns Hopkins Hospital, where she was informed her heart was functioning at 5%. Eventually, the artist underwent heart transplant surgery. Amy Sherald is truly a strong character, surviving a major life-threatening condition and patiently persisting with her career as an artist. A humble personality, she says to other artists, “Trust that if you’re on your path, things just kind of fall into place”.



  1. Cullen, Tony. “Episode 23: Painting Michelle Obama.” Sidedoor, Smithsonian. May 8, 2018.
  2. Harris, Ashley. “5 Fast Facts: Amy Sherald.” National Museum of Women in the Arts.
  3. Swenson, Kyle. “Who is Amy Sherald?” Washington Post. February 23, 2018.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Amy Sherald

Amy Sherald (born August 30, 1973) is an American painter based in Baltimore, Maryland. She is best known for her portrait paintings. Her choices of subjects look to enlarge the genre of American art historical realism by telling African-American stories within their own tradition. She is well known for using grisaille to portray skin tones in her work as a way of "challenging the concept of color-as-race." Her style is simplified realism, involving staged photographs of her subjects.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Amy Sherald.