Wednesday, 23 May, 2018

Artist Perfectly Trolls Official Obama Portrait

Image Text
 COUPLED UP Michelle and Barack Obama Image Text COUPLED UP Michelle and Barack Obama
Ellis Copeland | 14 February, 2018, 19:02

The Obamas' hand-selected Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, both African-American artists, to paint their portraits.

Before even showing the actual portrait, Kimmel created a meme of his own, super-imposing an image of President Obama skydiving with the words "You're on your own, bitches!" written on the front of his parachute pack.

"Where have I seen that background before?" he mused. Wiley says the books served as a "menu" of the elements of a portrait. The background is filled with lush greenery with bright-colored flowers in various places. "We're still trying to express our identity... when we do see ourselves we're sort of taken aback".

Kehinde Wiley is well-known for recreating famous paintings, but replacing the featured white person - often a noble or general - with a young black man. Wiley often met the men on the street, brought them into his studio, and had them pick a work to be painted into, the famously left-wing Village Voice reported in March 2015.

On Tuesday, Sean Hannity's official website posted an article that suggested Barack Obama's Smithsonian portrait included "secret sperm cells".

"She bent down and looked at them and said, 'I painted this for you so that when you go to a museum you will see someone who looks like you on the wall, '" Moss recalled after seeing Sherald speak to young African-American girls at a gallery talk. If Wiley's impulse was to elevate his subjects, how would he depict the most powerful of people? They posed, hammed, and hugged before Obama spoke: "Look at that". "It really came down to, 'OK, Kehinde, you really do a type of transformation. I paint as a way of looking for myself in the world". Both Wiley and Sherald's work reflect the evolution of the American narrative, as mirrored in Obama's historical presidency. Although each flower on the official portrait depicted his journey on Earth - chrysanthemum, the official flower of Chicago, Hawaii's jasmine, blue lilies from Africa - all symbolic of Obama's heritage, it reminded others of something else.

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Michelle Obama said she "was a little overwhelmed, to say the least", after seeing her portrait.

He also takes paintings of saints and heroes of Old Masters and replaces the subjects with black men and women. What else do we know of her work? It's a nod to the women of Gee's Bend, an isolated Black community in late nineteenth century Alabama, where the women created abstract and asymmetrical quilt designs that defied the traditional geometric palette of American quilts. "Quilting is a huge part of black culture", Sherald says.

The unveiling of the Obamas' official portraits this week rightfully has generated the criticism this racist couple richly deserves ("Official Obama portraits unveiled at National Portrait Gallery", Web, Feb. 12).

Some people couldn't help but make comparisons to other iconic portraits, with one Twitter user comparing the former president's portrait to Beyoncé's pregnancy announcement portrait.

But ultimately, it presents something new.

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