Amy Sherald (American b. Columbus, GA 1973, lives Baltimore) received her MFA in Painting from Maryland Institute College of Art (2004), BA in Painting from Clark-Atlanta University (1997), and was a Spelman College International Artist-in-Residence in Portobelo, Panama (1997). In 2016, Sherald was the first woman to win the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition grand prize; an accompanying exhibition, The Outwin 2016, has been on tour since 2016 and will open at the Kemper Museum, Kansas City, MO in October 2017. Sherald has had solo shows at venues including Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago (2016); Reginald F. Lewis Museum, Baltimore (2013); and University of North Carolina, Sonja Haynes Stone Center, Chapel Hill (2011). In May 2018, she will present a solo exhibition at Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis, MO. Group exhibitions include Southern Accent, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC (2016); travelled to Speed Museum of Art, Louisville, KY (2017); Face to Face: Los Angeles Collects Portraiture, California African American Museum, Los Angeles (opens July 2017). Residencies include Odd Nerdrum Private Study, Larvik, Norway (2005); Tong Xion Art Center, Beijing, China (2008); Creative Art Alliance, Baltimore (2016); and Joan Mitchell Foundation, New Orleans (2017). Public collections include Smithsonian National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.; Smithsonian National Museum of African American Art and Culture, Washington, D.C.; Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.; Columbus Museum, GA; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City; and Nasher Museum of Art, Durham, NC. Sherald is represented by Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago.

When I graduated from MICA in 2004, I was trying to figure out how I was going to make it in the art world – all of my colleagues in art school were. But more than this, as a figurative painter, I was concerned with how to present and share ideas visually in the narratives that I develop when I paint.   In 2005, one year after finishing my MFA, I took four years away from painting. I left Baltimore and moved back home to Georgia to be a caregiver for my mom, my aunt, and my great-aunt. At the time, this felt like a blow to my career and I thought I was wasting valuable time. I now see my encounters while caring for my family as having profoundly shaped my work and reshaped my identity moving forward. Fresh out of graduate school, as an artist, to experience where I was from with new eyes gave me some other fuel for returning to the studio to pick up my brushes again and to pursue my career as a painter. I returned to Baltimore and found a cheap studio nervous that I had lost touch with my canvas. I resumed ideas I had intended to pursue after graduate school—calling this my Sarah McLachlan phase, I felt like a lesser Rembrandt who merged with Dalí and absorbed Octavia Butler on the way to finding myself as a painter and storyteller. I left projects unfinished because I felt that my work wasn’t yet sophisticated enough to achieve the career I envisioned. I struggled that year to find myself in my work and to inhabit my artistic DNA. I walked the streets, watched movies, read books, and visited New York to see art that inspired me. A pivotal moment occurred in 2008 when I saw Kara Walker’s retrospective at the Whitney Museum. I had a breakthrough while experiencing the complex, familiar feelings of shame that underlie the experience of seeing myself in Walker’s images in such degrading and contorted ways. Born in the Deep South in 1973, I get the nuances of southern experience but wanted to figure out how I could transform these painful pasts while adding my own contemporary experiences of blackness.  Quoting Walker, “I think really the whole problem with racism and its continuing legacy in this country is that we simply love it. Who would we be without the ‘struggle’?” I started to make art in answer to who we are without the struggle. And from there my paintings began to image the versions of our selves that thrive when extricated from the dominant historical narrative. This is how I evolved into making art that delves into performance and assimilation narratives. In doing so, my paintings hold up a mirror to the present and reflect real experiences of blackness today and historically; in everyday life and within the historical art canon. 

When I graduated from MICA in 2004, I was trying to figure out how I was going to make it in the art world – all of my colleagues in art school were. But more than this, as a figurative painter, I was concerned with how to present and share ideas visually in the narratives that I develop when I paint.  

In 2005, one year after finishing my MFA, I took four years away from painting. I left Baltimore and moved back home to Georgia to be a caregiver for my mom, my aunt, and my great-aunt. At the time, this felt like a blow to my career and I thought I was wasting valuable time. I now see my encounters while caring for my family as having profoundly shaped my work and reshaped my identity moving forward. Fresh out of graduate school, as an artist, to experience where I was from with new eyes gave me some other fuel for returning to the studio to pick up my brushes again and to pursue my career as a painter.

I returned to Baltimore and found a cheap studio nervous that I had lost touch with my canvas. I resumed ideas I had intended to pursue after graduate school—calling this my Sarah McLachlan phase, I felt like a lesser Rembrandt who merged with Dalí and absorbed Octavia Butler on the way to finding myself as a painter and storyteller. I left projects unfinished because I felt that my work wasn’t yet sophisticated enough to achieve the career I envisioned. I struggled that year to find myself in my work and to inhabit my artistic DNA. I walked the streets, watched movies, read books, and visited New York to see art that inspired me. A pivotal moment occurred in 2008 when I saw Kara Walker’s retrospective at the Whitney Museum. I had a breakthrough while experiencing the complex, familiar feelings of shame that underlie the experience of seeing myself in Walker’s images in such degrading and contorted ways. Born in the Deep South in 1973, I get the nuances of southern experience but wanted to figure out how I could transform these painful pasts while adding my own contemporary experiences of blackness.  Quoting Walker, “I think really the whole problem with racism and its continuing legacy in this country is that we simply love it. Who would we be without the ‘struggle’?” I started to make art in answer to who we are without the struggle. And from there my paintings began to image the versions of our selves that thrive when extricated from the dominant historical narrative. This is how I evolved into making art that delves into performance and assimilation narratives. In doing so, my paintings hold up a mirror to the present and reflect real experiences of blackness today and historically; in everyday life and within the historical art canon.