Amy Sherald, Michelle Obama portrait artist, to speak at Austin Peay
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Amy Sherald, Michelle Obama portrait artist, to speak at Austin Peay

Amy Sherald, who unveiled her Smithsonian-commissioned portrait of Michelle Obama in February, will give a free public lecture 7:30 p.m. Sept. 27 at Austin Peay.

(Posted Sept. 12, 2018)

The Department of Art + Design, with support from The Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts, is pleased to welcome internationally known artist, Amy Sherald, to Austin Peay State University.

Amy SheraldKnown for her stylized portraits of African-Americans, in 2016, Sherald was the first woman to win the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition; an accompanying exhibition, The Outwin 2016, was on tour through August 2018.

In February 2018, Sherald unveiled her official portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama, commissioned for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. She will give a public lecture on her past projects and artistic practice at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 27, in Austin Peay’s University Center Ballroom.

“Her work undermines American beliefs about race as being defined by one’s skin color,” states Dr. Tony Morris, art historian and Art + Design department chair. “In her portraits, Sherald erases color in the skin and hair of her subjects. The absence of color in the figure is particularly jarring when juxtaposed with the colorful clothing worn by her sitters and the flat, color-field background space that they occupy. The presence of bright color elsewhere reinforces the deliberateness of her erasure.”

Amy Sherald received her MFA in painting from Maryland Institute College of Art (2004) and B.A. in painting from Clark-Atlanta University (1997). She was a Spelman College International Artist-in-Residence in Portobelo, Panama (1997). Sherald has had solo shows at venues including Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago, Illinois (2016); Reginald F. Lewis Museum, Baltimore, Maryland (2013); and University of North Carolina, Sonja Haynes Stone Center, Chapel Hill, North Carolina (2011). 

Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama by Amy Sherald, oil on linen, 2018. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg; Judith Kern and Kent Whealy; Tommie L. Pegues and Donald A. Capoccia; Clarence, DeLoise, and Brenda Gaines; Jonathan and Nancy Lee Kemper; The Stoneridge Fund of Amy and Marc Meadows; Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker; Catherine and Michael Podell; Mark and Cindy Aron; Lyndon J. Barrois and Janine Sherman Barrois; The Honorable John and Louise Bryson; Paul and Rose Carter; Bob and Jane Clark; Lisa R. Davis; Shirley Ross Davis and Family; Alan and Lois Fern; Conrad and Constance Hipkins; Sharon and John Hoffman; Audrey M. Irmas; John Legend and Chrissy Teigen; Eileen Harris Norton; Helen Hilton Raiser; Philip and Elizabeth Ryan; Roselyne Chroman Swig; Josef Vascovitz and Lisa Goodman; Eileen Baird; Dennis and Joyce Black Family Charitable Foundation; Shelley Brazier; Aryn Drake-Lee; Andy and Teri Goodman; Randi Charno Levine and Jeffrey E. Levine; Fred M. Levin and Nancy Livingston, The Shenson Foundation; Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago; Arthur Lewis and Hau Nguyen; Sara and John Schram; Alyssa Taubman and Robert Rothman.
Amy Sherald's portrait of Michelle Obama is in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. (Smithsonian)

A solo exhibition of new and recent works first opened at Contemporary Art Museum, St Louis, Missouri, in May 2018 and will travel to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, and Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta. Recent group exhibitions include Southern Accent, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina (2016), which traveled to Speed Museum of Art, Louisville, Kentucky (2017), and Face to Face: Los Angeles Collects Portraiture, California African American Museum, Los Angeles (2017).Sherald’s work is held in the public collections of the Embassy of the United States, Dakar, Senegal; the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.; Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C.; Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.; The Columbus Museum, Columbus, Georgia; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri; and Nasher Museum of Art, Durham, North Carolina. Sherald is represented by Hauser & Wirth, New York.

For more on Amy Sherald and her work, visit:

For more on this lecture, please contact Michael Dickins, APSU Art + Design director of galleries, at

All events are free and open to the public. All ages are welcome.