Amy Sherald, Artist Behind Official Michelle Obama Portrait, Has First Solo Show in St. Louis


Amy Sherald, left, was chosen to create the official portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama. - COURTESY OF CAM AND FLICKR/USDAGOV
  • Amy Sherald, left, was chosen to create the official portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama.
The artist who painted the official portrait of Michelle Obama unveiled today in the National Portrait Gallery is getting her first solo show at a museum this summer — and it's in St. Louis.

The Contemporary Art Museum (3750 Washington Blvd., 314-535-4660) is featuring new and recent paintings by Sherald, who is based in Baltimore. The exhibit was organized by executive curator Lisa Melandri.

As the museum crowed in a press release, Sherald is "known for her colorful, life-size portraits of everyday African Americans. Sherald deftly represents the features of each sitter with the masterful draftsmanship of American realism and decorates her subjects with fantastical props and costumes set against a color-field background."

Count the former first lady as a fan.

"I am a little overwhelmed, to say the least," Obama said in a speech this morning after helping Sherald reveal her work, according to NPR. "As you may have guessed, I don't think there is anybody in my family who has ever had a portrait done, let alone a portrait that will be hanging in the National Gallery — at least as far as I know, Mom. But all those folks who helped me be here today, they are with us physically and they are with us in spirit."

As for Sherald, the relatively young painter (born 1973) tried to be zen about the big commission. As she told the New York Times, “I’m just going to pretend it’s not a big deal…. I paint paintings of people. And I’m painting a painting of another person.”

But even with that game plan, Sherald had to admit there's something empowering about Obama, who was the nation's first black first lady, and a highly accomplished lawyer in her own right. “She’s an archetype that a lot of women can relate to—no matter shape, size, race, or color,” Sherald told the paper. “We see our best selves in her.”

And now St. Louis art lovers can see themselves in Sherald's work, too. Her show is set to open May 11 and run through August 19.

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