Earlier this year, O, The Oprah Magazine changed its offerings in a significant way when it featured a portrait of Breonna Taylor by Alexis Franklin on its cover, marking the first time Oprah Whitney did not appear on the cover of the publication. Now, one of the foremost artists in the United States has created an image of Taylor for another major magazine.
The September issue of Vanity Fair has on its cover a painting of Taylor by Amy Sherald, who painted Michelle Obama’s famed First Lady portrait in 2018. Rendered in cool shades of blue, Taylor appears with her hand perched on her hip, her eyes looking out at the viewer. She is dressed in a flowing gown designed by Jasmine Elder, of the Atlanta-based fashion brand Jibri, which is “dedicated to creating garments for the fashion conscious, curvy, plus size woman,” according to its website.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Sherald called Taylor an “American girl, she is a sister, a daughter, and a hard worker.” Because Sherald is immunocompromised, she cannot attend the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests where Taylor’s name has become a call to action, she said, and so the painting is her way of adding to the cause. “Producing this image keeps Breonna alive forever,” she said.
Taylor was killed by police in Louisville, Kentucky, this past March during a raid on her home. Sometime after midnight, after police with a no-knock warrant entered Taylor’s home using a battering ram, she was shot eight times in what authorities have labeled a “botched raid” as part of a narcotics investigation. No drugs were found after they entered, and one officer involved in the killing has been terminated.
Sherald’s painting is the cover for the hotly anticipated September issue, for which author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates served as guest editor. That issue, titled “The Great Fire,” also features photographs of Taylor’s family members by LaToya Ruby Frazier. Shot in stark black and white, one such image is a close-up of Taylor’s boyfriend holding the engagement ring he had planned to give her.