Amy Sherald, Who Made Michelle Obama's Official Portrait, Commemorates Breonna Taylor

Bianca Betancourt
·3 mins read
Photo credit: NurPhoto - Getty Images
Photo credit: NurPhoto - Getty Images

From Harper's BAZAAR

  • The late Breonna Taylor is on the cover of Vanity Fair's 2020 September issue.

  • The publication commissioned artist Amy Sherald to create a commemorative portrait of the emergency medical technician whose death has propelled Black Lives Matter protests across the country.

  • Sherald is best known for creating former First Lady Michelle Obama's official portrait, which is on display at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.

Artist Amy Sherald's latest work honors the life and legacy of the late Breonna Taylor.

Sherald created a commemorative painting of Taylor for the September cover of Vanity Fair that showcases the 26-year-old emergency medical technician in a flowy maxi dress. Inside, the issue includes the culmination of a series of interviews between Taylor's mother, Tamika Palmer, and author Ta-Nehisi Coates, in which Palmer remembers her daughter.

Taylor was shot and killed by police on March 13, when they entered her Louisville, Kentucky, home on a no-knock warrant. Sherald—who's best known for creating former First Lady Michelle Obama's official portrait on display at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery—painted the portrait as way to keep Taylor's memory alive, detailing with Vanity Fair the unique creative process of conceptualizing the commissioned piece.

Unlike most of Sherald's portraits, Taylor was a subject she had never met. And due to her untimely death, Taylor would never be able to sit and pose for Sherald either. Nonetheless, the artist was inspired by the fact that Taylor was an everyday American citizen, who represented countless Black women doing the work to simply survive in today's United States. The painting also features subtle symbolic details from Taylor's life, including the engagement ring painted on her left hand, as Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, was planning to propose before her murder.

"[Breonna was an] American girl, she is a sister, a daughter, and a hard worker. Those are the kinds of people that I am drawn towards," said Sherald of her subject. Due to Sherald being immunocompromised, she has been unable to participate in the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests taking place nationwide and considered this art piece to be her contribution to the "moment and to activism."

"Producing this image keeps Breonna alive forever," stated Sherald. "I wanted this image to stand as a piece of inspiration to keep fighting for justice for her."

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