Portrait of Resilience, from the Flag Series

Media - 2021.35 - SAAM-2021.35_1 - 142805
Copied Sharon Kerry-Harlan, Portrait of Resilience, from the Flag Series, 2020, dye discharge fabric, antique quilt fabric, vinyl, flag fabric, and African print fabric, overall: 86 12 × 73 12 in. (219.7 × 186.7 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Kenneth R. Trapp Acquisition Fund, 2021.35, © 2021, Sharon Kerry-Harlan

Artwork Details

Portrait of Resilience, from the Flag Series
Not on view
overall: 86 12 × 73 12 in. (219.7 × 186.7 cm)
© 2021, Sharon Kerry-Harlan
Credit Line
Museum purchase through the Kenneth R. Trapp Acquisition Fund
Mediums Description
dye discharge fabric, antique quilt fabric, vinyl, flag fabric, and African print fabric
  • African American
  • Occupation — other — reformer
Object Number

Artwork Description

Portrait of Resilience pieces together materials and symbols from the past and present to create a portrait of a Black American woman in this current moment. Sharon Kerry-Harlan depicts a girl with a youthful bubble braid. Each bubble is haloed with the crownlike appearance of a COVID-19 particle. The blouse is constructed of an antique patchwork quilt, adorned with a 2020 golden necklace made with faux leather. Her lips and nose are made of a commercial cotton American flag, and the bows accenting her braid are made of African kente cloth.

Reflecting on current events—including the effects of the pandemic—that have affirmed structures of racism in American society, Kerry-Harlan writes, “despite these dire situations, resilience remains among African Americans and their allies to realize a better future.” The artist’s process, quilting, inspires a way forward rooted in generational togetherness, empowering the young girl with the strength of the community. The stitches carry the stories of pain, but they also mend and bring comfort.

This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World, 2022

Verbal Description

A large eight-foot-tall, seven-foot-wide quilt featuring an abstract portrait of a girl at center. The background is filled with thick, black geometric patterns, like repeating wheels, diamonds, and three-petaled flowers, that stand in contrast against a splotchy light-brown ground.

The girl’s face is narrow and oblong. Her skin matches the color and texture of the background, but it is filled with more solid, black shapes. She stares directly at us with large, dark-brown almond-shaped eyes outlined with eyelids of sparkly gold. The right eye has thick light-brown lashes that radiate from it, and it sits slightly below the left eye. A bold, light-brown eyebrow sits above the left eye. Her nose is long with a wide end and is comprised of patchwork American flag fabric. Just beneath her nose, her full lips, also made up of patchwork American flag fabric, are slightly parted to reveal the bottom edges of her top teeth. Her ears resemble the halves of peanut shells. A long, gold earring dangles from her right ear. It ends with a circular pendant containing an American flag patch and it is outlined in black with spindly spikes resembling the COVID-19 particle.

Her long neck extends from small, rectangular shoulders. She wears a colorful shirt made up of patchwork diamond shapes of variously patterned red, blue, white, gray, and green fabrics. It has a lace collar. A glittery faux-leather golden necklace with 2020” dangling at center hangs from her neck. 

Finally, from the top left side of her head, a large bubble braid gently curves downward, along the shape of her face, and falls just above her shoulder. It is topped with a bow outlined in white and filled with bright orange, yellow, and blue patterned kente fabric. Each bubble gets progressively smaller as the braid curves down the side of her face. The bubbles in the braid have the same shape as the earring — the shape of the COVID-19 particle with protruding thin spikes with circular ends. Some of the bubbles contain small patchwork American flag fabric. Smaller orange bows sit between every two bubbles.


Quilt featuring the portrait of a woman
This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World
May 13, 2022April 2, 2023
This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World showcases the dynamic landscape of American craft today.