Black Males and Contrast in Paintings by Amy Sherald
This painting shows a black-and-white, or sepia, a man in brightly colored clothes with a bright contrasting background. The black male as the focus of the painting, perhaps emphasizing that the color of his skin ‘contrasts’ well with the bright colors of the background and his clothing making him unique; a concept many black boys struggle with – identity and uniqueness.
The black-and-white or sepia young man is depicted standing still in large round glasses in contrasting blue shirts and yellow pants. The contrast illuminates his clothing, which is a highly unusual style for black boys, but potentially highlights his identity through the clothing (i.e., nerdy or queer), which he seeks to represent.
The black-and-white young man holds a bright green leaf, contrasting the idea of fallen, autumnal leaves. The title stemming from a short poem of the same name, the painting represents some level of calm and spirituality adopted by a black man in designer clothing, but it represents an identity that potentially embraces mindfulness and self-confidence.
The otherwise plainly dressed black-and-white or sepia young man is wearing a colorful hat of flowers. The contrast between the camp hat and the otherwise simple dress, as well as the feminine pose of the character, is exquisite, highlighting a potentially queer identity of the young man, as he seeks to find a style, both literally and metaphorically, which truly represents him, and he has no shame about it.
The young man is standing proudly in a large black hat and a US-flag-colored shirt, contrasting the stereotypes about the South. The contrast in both the colors of the painting and the ideas presented contribute to the strong effect of the image because the ‘South’ is so strongly associated with slavery and discrimination of African Americans; this take on the ‘Southern’ style potentially represents black men taking back control of their identity.