Page 29 - Mar2019
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                                A FLIRST ADY’S GRAND DEBUT
Amy Sherald puts Michelle Obama in class of her own with portrait of the beloved icon at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery. BY KORI TUITT
  l Before Amy Sherald’s name became synonymous with documenting a historic moment for the United States, she was hustling for her craft and tackling life’s tribulations. The Baltimore, Maryland resident lost her brother to cancer in 2012 and shortly after overcame
her own health issues when she had a heart transplant, according to an interview she did with CBS News. But
her continued dedication to the arts and her unique
style would lead her to be chosen to paint the portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama. Both Sherald’s portrait of the former first lady and Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of President Barack Obama unveiled a year ago, spurred chatter about their unconventional artistic approaches. Against a baby blue background, the first lady is painted sitting with her chin gently resting on the back of her right hand. She wears a mostly black-and-white geometric-patterned dress that cascades to the floor. Her skin is painted in grayscale, like all of Sherald’s subjects. “I feel like I cap- tured her,” Sherald told CBS in an interview. “When I look at it, I see her. I see the Michelle that was present at the sitting. A contemplative, graceful woman, you know, who understands her place in history.” Sherald, stepping into national and international recognition as an artist speaks deeply to the culture of Baltimore for Nicholas Cohen, executive director of Maryland Citizens for the Arts. The statewide advocacy organization is housed in the Motor House, where Sherald has a studio. Cohen said there is a lot of pride for artists who work in Baltimore.“ Amy’s work
Former First Lady Michelle Obama poses with her portraitist at revelation of Sherald’s masterpiece.
has always been amazing. For me, it’s a Baltimore thing, it’s a Maryland thing --because we’re proud of arts and our artists --and it’s an empowerment thing for a woman and a person of color to make this portrait.” Cohen went from seeing Sherald in passing in the elevator and seeing her work in the Motor House, to seeing Sherald make national news and viewing first-hand, the crowds and excitement around the portrait of First Lady Obama in the National Portrait Gallery. For months after the portrait unveilings, the museum hit record numbers of visitors. While at the museum, Cohen said he was pleased to see

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