The Birmingham Museum of Art is still taking audience questions for its virtual conversation with renowned artist Amy Sherald.
Sherald, who painted first lady Michelle Obama’s official portrait for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, is the Birmingham Museum of Art’s 2020 Chenoweth Lecture speaker.
The artist will join the BMA on Thursday, Nov. 5 for a conversation about her work, adapting to the “new normal” of creating during the COVID-19 pandemic, her iconic portraits, and her piece “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” which is currently on view in the museum’s Pizitz Gallery as part of an exhibition of the same name. The portrait, which depicts a young girl in a yellow dress, shielding her eyes from the sun, is a long-term loan to the Birmingham Museum of Art from a North Carolina couple who wanted to lend the portrait to an art institution in the South, BMA director Dr. Graham C. Boettcher told AL.com in October.
“I’m deliriously happy to have it. That’s the painting (Sherald) often cites as one of her most important paintings. And it makes me happy every time I look at it.”
Hallie Ringle, the museum’s Curator of Contemporary Art, and Carey Fountain, the manager of Public Programs, will lead the conversation with Sherald, which will start at 6 p.m. CST.
The BMA is also taking questions from the public. Those who wish to submit questions can register for the lecture on the museum website. The questions will be compiled and included in Thursday evening’s talk.
Registered participants will receive a link via email to attend the Zoom lecture.
A native of Columbus, Ga., Sherald received her BA in painting from Clark Atlanta University in 1997. She is the 2015 winner of the National Portrait Gallery’s prestigious Outwin Boochever Portraiture Competition and the 2018 winner of the High Museum of Art’s David C. Driskell Prize.
Sherald was thrust into the national and international spotlight when she was commissioned to paint First Lady Michelle Obama’s official portrait for the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. In a 2017 op-ed for The New York Times, photographer Naima Green named Sherald “The Perfect Woman to Paint Michelle Obama,” writing:
“But the selection of Amy Sherald for Michelle Obama’s portrait is perhaps more significant. It elevates a different kind of nuance in black portraiture, one that is even rarer: Ms. Sherald paints blackness that is quiet, ordinary and individual. What is so startling about her work is that in their subtle poses and at times muted color palette, the subjects are simply people.”
This year, Sherald applied that subtle humanity to her portrait of Breonna Taylor, the young woman killed by Louisville police in March, for the cover of Vanity Fair.
In an interview with Miles Pope about her artistic process for painting Taylor, Sherald described Taylor as an "American girl, she is a sister, a daughter, and a hard worker.
" Those are the kinds of people that I am drawn towards," Sherald told Pope.
In a June article for the New York Times Style Magazine, Sherald expounded on why she paints her subjects in grayscale, allowing viewers to see the quiet humanity of Black people:
“I realized very quickly, once I crossed into painting the black figure, that we are a political statement in and of ourselves, especially when we’re hanging on the walls of museums and institutions. Because of that, I knew I didn’t want the work to be marginalized any further, and I didn’t want the conversation to be solely about identity or politics — our images deserve more than that.”
The Birmingham Museum of Art reopened its doors to the public on Oct. 6, nearly seven months after pandemic shutdown. The exhibition “All Things Bright and Beautiful” which first opened on March 7, will be on view until March 2021.
“I’m excited to hear about how 2020 has changed (Sherald’s) practice and I’m excited to ask her about her portrait of Breonna Taylor and Vanity Fair,” Hallie Ringle told AL.com in October.
“Carey and I are really looking forward to what it means to be (a) portrait painter at this moment and how powerful that can be during the pandemic, during the Black Lives Matter uprisings and how she is using her voice for social change. So I’m excited to talk to her about that.”
The 2020 virtual Chenoweth lecture “Amy Sherald: In Conversation” starts on Thursday, Nov. 5 at 6 p.m. CST. Participants can register at artsbma.org.