The Contemporary Art Museum will feature new and recent paintings by Amy Sherald in a solo exhibit, May 11, 2018 – August 19, 2018. The exhibit was organized by executive curator Lisa Melandri.

Sherald, the artist behind the official Michelle Obama portrait, paints staged narratives and constructed identities, creating portraits of African Americans – most of whom she meets during the course of her day. She deftly represents the features of each sitter with the masterful draughtsmanship of American realism.

But she decorates her subjects with fantastical props and costumes: brightly colored pin-striped suits, multi-scooped ice-cream cones, rabbits in hats, giant coffee cups, and cotton candy. A lush, color-field backdrop serves as setting.

An obvious care is taken with each portrait: how a prop is chosen, how it is held, the style and fit of clothing, the contrast or complement of colors, the choice of backdrop, or void, with the color intensity of a candied fantasy, and the expression and gesture of the figure.

The artist has talked about her artmaking as an act to “image the versions of ourselves that thrive when extricated from the dominant historical narrative.” Her work lends truth and reality to history. “My paintings hold up a mirror to the present and reflect real experiences of blackness today and historically,” she says, “in everyday life and within the historical art canon.”

Amy Sherald, who was born in Columbus, GA 1973, and lives in Baltimore, received her MFA in Painting from Maryland Institute College of Art (2004) and BA in Painting from Clark-Atlanta University (1997), and was a Spelman College International Artist-in-Residence in Portobelo, Panama (1997). In 2016, Sherald was the first woman to win the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition grand prize; an accompanying exhibition, The Outwin 2016, has been on tour since 2016 and opened at the Kemper Museum, Kansas City, MO in October 2017.

The Contemporary Art Museum is located at 3750 Washington Blvd. in the Grand Center Entertainment District. For more information, call 314-535-4660.