“Miss Everything (Unsuppressed Deliverance)” (2014), oil on canvas. Collection of Frances and Burton Reifler.
Sherald’s works have certain trademarks: the subjects never smile, and they are always gray.
Why does she paint black skin in grayscale? “When I started painting, when I found my artistic DNA, part of that process was trying to figure out how I wanted to represent these images. And I had started to render the skin in gray in order to put the glazes of brown over top. And I just completed a face, and I had kinda started the rest of the painting, and it just looked good – like, the gray skin on these bright colors, it just looked good.
“I think, also, I was subconsciously struggling with not wanting to be marginalized. I feel like the black body is a political statement in itself, right? So on canvas, all of a sudden, I’m making this political statement just because I’m painting brown skin. And I didn’t want to marginalize the narrative that I was trying to put out in the world.”