Breonna Taylor, the Black woman who was shot and killed by police in her Louisville home, graces the cover of Vanity Fair‘s September issue in a new portrait by artist Amy Sherald.
Sheared, who documents the Black experience through her paintings, is perhaps most famous for her 2018 portrait of Michelle Obama for the National Portrait Gallery.
Of her latest work, she says:
“I made this portrait for her family. I mean, of course I made it for Vanity Fair, but the whole time I was thinking about her family…. Producing this image keeps Breonna alive forever.”
“She sees you seeing her. The hand on the hip is not passive, her gaze is not passive. She looks strong!” says Sherald. “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.”
The cover includes details, such as the gold cross on a chain necklace and – sadly –the engagement ring Taylor’s boyfriend purchased and planned to give her before she was shot by officers.
As for the hues, “painting someone posthumously, I wanted it to feel ethereal but grounded at the same time,” Sherald says. She tried a rainbow of options, yellows and reds and pinks, but none felt quite right, until she invoked the portrait itself. “ ‘Breonna, what color do you want this dress to be? Please, tell me what color you want this dress to be,’ ” Sherald says she mused. Then she hit on blue, a shade that echoes Taylor’s March birthstone, the aquamarine. “The color that I chose almost had a resplendence to it. The monochromatic color allows you to really focus on her face. The whole painting really becomes about her.”
You can read an interview with Breonna’s mother, Tamika Palmer, here.