Photo Credit: Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun/TNS/Sipa USA

Michelle Obama Portrait Artist Receives High Museum Driskell Prize

Amy Sherald Calls the Obama experience "validation"

Maria Boynton
April 27, 2018 - 5:34 pm

Amy Sherald says the David C. Driskell Prize "came right on time." The artist, whose portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama hangs in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., calls it all "exciting." She's received other grants and prizes, yet Sherald says "this one feels really good" because its named for Driskell, "a black artist who has paved the way for a lot of us to be here." It's not just about the $25,000 attached to the award, Sherald says, "there are a lot of things that start to happen for you in your career when you get nominated for these kinds of awards." The award is being presented tonight by the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.

It was  October 2017 when Sherald was commissioned to paint the portrait of Mrs. Obama. While her career as an artist had started to pick up, the phone call from NPG was the spark that  really got her to start working again. "To receive that sort of validation", says Sherald, "really regenerates your self esteem". She says the struggle and the hustle "of trying to make something happen, slowly taps away at how you see yourself." To have that sort of approval from Mrs. Obama, Sherald says, "was really great."

A native of Columbus, Georgia, Sherald is a graduate of Clark Atlanta University. The Maryland Institute College of Art is where she received her master's in fine arts.

On being a role model, Sherald says "there's lots of children that need to see people doing things that look like them." She's proud to carry that role.


(Photo Credit: Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/Sipa USA via USA TODAY NETWORK)