‘I’m The Same Person I Was Before.’ Michelle Obama’s Portrait Artist Is A Star

By David Menconi
The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Artist Amy Sherald was catapulted into the national spotlight after her portrait of former first lady Michelle Obama was unveiled to the world.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.

Not too long ago, Amy Sherald was an acclaimed but largely unknown painter.

That changed Feb. 12, when the official portrait for former first lady Michelle Obama was unveiled to the world along with the Baltimore-based artist who painted it.

Sherald’s elegant portrait of Obama and Kehinde Wiley’s painting of former President Barack Obama both hang in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Sherald immediately was catapulted into the national spotlight and suddenly has become something of a celebrity.

She already was the centerpiece of “The Outwin 2016: American Portraiture Today”, the prestigious National Portrait Gallery competition, having painted the winning entry. But now there’s some mainstream buzz on the show, which just opened at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Ackland Art Museum and will be on display through Aug. 2. The opening-night talk with Sherald sold out well in advance.

“I’m the same person I was before, but people look at me different,” Sherald said in an interview at the media preview. “People act nervous, and I’m like, ‘Dude, I took a (expletive) this morning just like you did.”

She paused to laugh.

“People ask for autographs and selfies now, which I’m happy to oblige,” Sherald continued. “They’re coming from a place of genuine warmth that people feel for Michelle. Because I painted her, I feel like an ambassador for her in a lot of ways.

“I probably shouldn’t curse as much as I do,” she concluded with another laugh.

PORTRAITS ON THE ROAD

“The Outwin 2016” presents the 42 finalists from that year’s Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, which the National Portrait Gallery sponsors every three years. In this first-ever tour of finalist entries, Ackland is the fourth and final museum to show the collection.

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