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                                   AMY SHERALD
Amy Sherald beside her work titled Miss Everything (Unsuppressed Deliverance). Oil on canvas
such diverse groups of people eager to see her portrait.“ The portrait of Mrs. Obama by Amy Sherald is unique in that it presents the sitter against a solid, celestial blue background. She is abstracted from the everyday world, and yet she bears an expression that shows intellectual grounding,” said Taína Caragol, curator of painting and sculpture and Latino art and history at the National Portrait Gallery. “There is a tension between a woman that has become an archetype, a model and inspiration for many, and at the same time, someone rooted in our world and contemporary reality.”
Carogal said Sherald’s choice to use grayscale tones to portray the skin of black people, speaks to the history of African American portraiture, which was primarily limited to black-and-white photography until the early 20th century
John Reed is the president of the NAACP Cape Cod chapter and the director of the Zion Union Heritage Museum in Hyannis, Massachusetts. Reed said he was initially surprised by the portrait, but said people have the right to creative and expressive freedom
“It’s not the traditional portrait, but they’re not tradi- tional people,” Reed said. “They were new people in a new age at a time where a lot of people didn’t want them in the White House.”
Like Reed, Cohen said the portrait reflects how Obama held her position of First Lady. He said the portrait was
bold and fearless.“
Maybe another artist would say, ‘I don’t want to create
too much dialogue,’ Cohen said. “Art for art’s sake is when you paint inside the lines --and I think her portrait, her boldness, also portrays the first lady who was especially bold and let her opinions be known. You always felt the president and the first lady were toe to toe. She wasn’t the woman behind the man.
”Raél Jero Salley, an art history professor at the Mary- land Institute College of Art, said the former first lady “inhabits an unprecedented position in American history,” and now Sherald does, too.
“An artwork such as this one has the potential to make viewers see and think differently about people, social life, and society more broadly,” Salley said. “Why might this matter? Because while formal politics in the U.S. have always been antagonistic, the current political climate in- cludes attacks—in formal and informal ways—that target people historically most vulnerable, including women and people of color.
”Cohen said everyone has a finite amount of time on earth, unlike these presidential portraits he described as everlasting.
“Two hundred years from now, people will talk
about that and they’ll also talk about the artists,” he said. “It’s definitely a landmark moment for this country.”

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