Date of Award

Summer 7-16-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


African American Studies


Bryant, Joan


Amy Sherald, Black, grisaille, literary titles, monochromatic background

Subject Categories

African American Studies | Arts and Humanities | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies


This thesis engages the concept of identity in the representation and presentation of Black Americans. It counters historical moments like the Black Arts Movement, whose artists aimed to speak directly to the needs and aspirations of Black Americans by demanding recognition from white power on its own terms. This thesis explores contemporary artist Amy Sherald, whose portraiture explores social and political contexts that limit the expressiveness of the Black American subject. It considers how, through the method of reconfiguration, Sherald exudes an imaginative interior of American Blackness not privy to the public, how her figures' pensive and assertive gazes disobey and subvert western aesthetics, and how she advocates for an expressiveness that isn't resistive. Through the use of monochromatic backgrounds, fashion, grisaille, and literary titles, Sherald refuses to rely on the framework of resistance to define Blackness and creates a unique body of Black portraiture that requires a new visual aesthetic to understand identities not actualized in the public sphere.


Open Access



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