Amy Sherald: Painter of the Beautiful Ordinary

Amy Sherald: Painter of the Beautiful Ordinary

SAINT WOMAN 2015, 54 x 43 inches, Oil on canvas

SAINT WOMAN 2015, 54 x 43 inches, Oil on canvas

Amy Sherald’s paintings are visual feasts of beautiful ordinary people. That’s why I love them. Oh, and the titles are just everything.

Amy is an award-winning painter who paints large scale oil paintings of people underrepresented in the art historical narrative. Translation: she paints portraits of beautiful ordinary black folk because they’re missing from museum walls and representation matters. She’s much like Kerry James Marshall in this regard, deliberately aiming her art practice at centering black people in her work and painting them in ways that evoke everyday living and everyday leisure.

MISS EVERYTHING (UNSUPPRESSED DELIVERANCE) 2014, 54 x 43 in,  Oil on Canvas

MISS EVERYTHING (UNSUPPRESSED DELIVERANCE) 2014, 54 x 43 in, 
Oil on Canvas

WHAT'S DIFFERENT ABOUT ALICE IS THAT SHE HAS THE MOST INCISIVE WAY OF TELLING THE TRUTH. 2017, 54 x 43 inches, Oil on Canvas

WHAT'S DIFFERENT ABOUT ALICE IS THAT SHE HAS THE MOST INCISIVE WAY OF TELLING THE TRUTH. 2017, 54 x 43 inches, Oil on Canvas

TRY ON DREAMS UNTIL I FIND THE ONE THAT FITS ME. THEY ALL FIT ME.2017, 54 x 43 inches, Oil on Canvas

TRY ON DREAMS UNTIL I FIND THE ONE THAT FITS ME. THEY ALL FIT ME.2017, 54 x 43 inches, Oil on Canvas

Her portraits lean more on the surreal side and include elements you won’t find in real life. For starters, she ditches a more realistic brownish skin tone color and instead casts all her characters in this beautiful charcoal gray which adds this extraordinary intensity but still feels real and still reads “I'm black.” The vibrant backgrounds, playful outfits, and accessories appear in stark contrast to the stoic expressions. 

INNOCENT YOU, INNOCENT ME2016, 54 x 43 inches, Oil on Canvas

INNOCENT YOU, INNOCENT ME2016, 54 x 43 inches, Oil on Canvas

PILGRIMAGE OF THE CHAMELEON2016, 71 x 51 inches, Oil on Canvas

PILGRIMAGE OF THE CHAMELEON2016, 71 x 51 inches, Oil on Canvas

WHAT'S PRECIOUS INSIDE OF HIM DOES NOT CARE TO BE KNOWN BY THE MIND IN WAYS THAT DIMINISH ITS PRESENCE (ALL AMERICAN).2017, 54 x 43 inches, Oil on Canvas

WHAT'S PRECIOUS INSIDE OF HIM DOES NOT CARE TO BE KNOWN BY THE MIND IN WAYS THAT DIMINISH ITS PRESENCE (ALL AMERICAN).2017, 54 x 43 inches, Oil on Canvas

THE BATHERS2015, 74 x 72 inches, Oil on Canvas  

THE BATHERS2015, 74 x 72 inches, Oil on Canvas  

You almost want the woman in the yellow bathing suit and purple swim cap to be smiling because well it’s a happy kind of outfit, but nope. She’s steady, standing in her beautiful ordinary skin, living her beautiful ordinary life and not here to perform for you or me.

Interesting factoid: Amy’s sister names her paintings.

See more of Amy Sherald's beautiful work on her website and do click on the Press tab and listen to Amy speak about her art practice and how her congestive heart failure diagnosis at age 30 and heart transplant at 39 fuel her work (so inspiring!).

Which Amy Sherald piece do you love? 

in love and art,
christa david

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