• Beyond the Canvas

Amy Sherald's portrait of Breonna Taylor

It's been 176 days since Breonna Taylor was killed. Breonna was 26-year-old, she worked as an emergency room technician and was on the frontline in the battle against COVID-19. She was struck down by at least 8 shots fired by Louisville Metro Police Department officers executing a so-called no-knock warrant.


Amy Sherald (b.1973) is no stranger to telling stories about Black people. For 20 years she has been doing so in her unique and deceptively understated realist style. Her work gained recognition in 2016 when she became the first woman and first African American to win the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, an accolade that led to her painting Michelle Obama's portrait for the National Portrait Gallery in 2018.


Sherald's tribute to Taylor is the portait of a confident-looking young woman in a stunning blue dress. The painting includes heartbreaking details, such as the engagement ring Breonna never got to wear because she was killed before her boyfriend could propose. In sharp contrast to Breonna's self-assured depiction, this acts a symbolic reminder of the future she and her loved ones were robbed of. In her interview to Vanity Fair, whose September issue cover this was made for, Sherald explains that this portrait is a "contribution to the moment and to activism -- I wanted this image to stand as a piece of inspiration to keep fighting for justice for her."


It's been 176 days since Breonna Taylor was killed. No arrests have been made.


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© Amy Sherald.

Photograph by Joseph Hyde courtesy of Vanity Fair.


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