Specifically, we’re witnessing the awakening of black figurative painting and portraiture, and as a figure Michelle Obama “is an archetype,” Sherald, 44, told me last week on the phone from Baltimore, where she’s based. “I want all types of people to look at my work and see themselves, just like I watch a Reese Witherspoon movie as a black woman and can empathize with her because we have had to internalize whiteness in that way to survive.”
At the National Museum of African American History and Culture, aka the Blacksonian, Sherald’s 2013 oil painting Grand Dame Queenie hangs prominently. It depicts a black woman holding a white teacup and saucer. The figure, wearing black-and-white striped pants and a red blouse tied at the neck into a pussycat bow, with a bright yellow scarf and a calm stare directed at the viewer, is realized in the artist’s signature “grayscale” painting technique, with her black skin rendered in shades of gray.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY & CULTURE | WASHINGTON, DC
The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture. It was established by Act of Congress in 2003, following decades of efforts to promote and highlight the contributions of African Americans. To date, the Museum has collected more than 36,000 artifacts and nearly 100,000 individuals have become charter members. The Museum opened to the public on September 24, 2016, as the 19th and newest museum of the Smithsonian Institution. (Website).