Amy Sherald: Everyday Icons

By October 06, 2023

For the coming year, Burnaway will partner with Art21, an organization that produces award-winning documentary films about the world’s most groundbreaking contemporary artists. The Partnership intends to deepen an understanding of visual art that hails from the South today.


This first film in the series to be hosted on Burnaway addresses the work of realist American painter Amy Sherald. In her own voice, Sherald speaks to her background, motivations, and creative process. Born in Columbus, GA, Sherald attended Clark Atlanta University. In 2018, she became the first Black woman selected to paint a Presidential Portrait. The now iconic work created by Sherald of Former First Lady Michelle Obama has traveled the world.

Sherald paints compelling portraits of Black subjects at rest and play. “I don’t think I realized that I was missing seeing imagery of myself in art history. It wasn’t until I came across a painting that actually had a person of color in it—a Black person—that I realized that I had never seen that before.” Sherald tells American stories and references the opportunity to understand her history and where she comes from as a fundamental aspect of her practice. Much of the documentary is set in her hometown of Columbus, GA. Of her work, Sherald said, “I really have this deep belief that images can change the world. It’s not that I started making work with that belief, but it is what I have come to know.”

Burnaway on Amy Sherald

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