Amy Sherald painted Breonna Taylor’s portrait for the cover of Vanity Fair.

Daria Simone Harper
Aug 24, 2020 4:54PM, via Vanity Fair

Amy Sherald with her portrait of Breonna Taylor. Photo by Joseph Hyde, courtesy Vanity Fair.

Vanity Fair magazine’s September cover features a new work by painter Amy Sherald: a bold portrait of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old Black woman who was fatally shot by Louisville Metro police officers in her home on March 13th, 2020. The cover graces a special issue, called “The Great Fire,” which includes contributions on the subject of systemic racism in the United States by independent curator and writer Kimberly Drew, and writer Kiese Makeba Laymon, among others. Guest edited by award-winning author Ta-Nehisi Coates, the issue also features a series of interviews with Tamika Palmer, Taylor’s mother, and intimate photographs of Taylor’s family taken by LaToya Ruby Frazier.

Sherald gained international recognition when she painted former United States First Lady Michelle Obama for the National Portrait Gallery in 2018. She is best known for her figurative paintings of individuals dressed in brilliantly colored clothing, with gray-scale skin tones. In Sherald’s portrait, Taylor is shown in the artist’s signature gray tone against a light aqua blue background. Taylor stands with her right hand placed on her hip and her gaze fixed straight ahead. She wears a flowing dress, which is just a fews shades darker than the hue of the background.

Courtesy Vanity Fair.

Sherald told Vanity Fair:

She sees you seeing her. The hand on the hip is not passive, her gaze is not passive. She looks strong! I wanted this image to stand as a piece of inspiration to keep fighting for justice for her. When I look at the dress, it kind of reminds me of Lady Justice.

Vanity Fair’s special issue comes as protests surrounding police violence and law enforcement reform continue throughout the U.S. Meanwhile, hundreds of petitions have circulated calling for the police officers who killed Taylor to be arrested and charged.

Further Reading: Demand Soars for Amy Sherald’s Work Following Obama Portrait Reveal

Daria Simone Harper
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019