Baltimore civil rights advocate DeRay Mckesson got to stare at himself at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, and clearly liked what was staring back at him.
“Left incredibly humbled,” Mckesson posted on Instagram, accompanying a post of him standing next to the portrait taken by Quinn Russell Brown, a Seattle-based photographer. The portrait of a somber Mckesson, dressed in one of his signature blue vests and standing in front of a yellow background, was one of 46 finalists in the gallery’s Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, held every three years. An exhibition of those finalists, “The Outwin 2019: American Portraiture Today,” went up in late October and will remain on display at the gallery through Aug. 30, 2020.
In his Instagram post, Mckesson took the opportunity to reflect on his work as an activist, especially in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests in Ferguson, Missouri, following the death of Michael Brown, referenced in text accompanying Brown’s portrait.
“Every day I’m reminded that we have so much work let to do and I’m here to do it until we’ve won,” Mckesson posted on Instagram. "And we’ll win. I know we will. It’ll be hard. They’ll say that we should let it go. But we’ll win.
"I am hopeful that this picture and its nameplate encourage more people to look up all the activists in St. Louis who were willing to risk everything in 2014. I am one of many.
The Outwin competition, which includes a grand prize of $25,000 and a commission to create a portrait of a living individual for the gallery’s permanent collection, attracted more than 2,600 submissions, from 14 states plus D.C. and Puerto Rico. The winner was San Diego artist Hugo Crosthwaite, for his stop-motion drawing animation, “A Portrait of Berenice Sarmiento Chávez,” depicting a woman’s journey from Tijuana, Mexico, to the United States.
Baltimore artist Amy Sherald won the Outwin in 2016. For her commission, Sherald painted former first lady Michelle Obama. Her work remains on display at the National Gallery as Obama’s official portrait.