Odd Portraits of the Obamas Meet with Shaky Public Reception

Odd Portraits of the Obamas Meet with Shaky Public Reception

Odd Portraits of the Obamas Meet with Shaky Public Reception

Like the former President Barack Obama's choice of the painter Kehinde Wiley for his own portrait, it was a demonstration of discriminating taste; these paintings, in the eclectic Smithsonian halls, will relate more easily to Douglas Chandor's study of Franklin D. Roosevelt's upper half and fiddling hands, the atomizing of Bill Clinton by Chuck Close, than to Robert A. Anderson's conservative transcription of George W. Bush.

National Portrait Gallery Director Kim Sajet said in a press statement: "As a museum of history and art, we have learned over the past half-century that the best portraiture has the power to bring world leaders into dialogue with everyday Americans".

"Shout-out to my mother-in-law, who, in addition to providing the hotness genes, also has been such an extraordinary rock and foundation stone for our family", the former president said at the unveiling ceremony.

Kehinde Wiley, born to a Nigerian father and an African American mother, is world-renowned for his portraits of young black men adorned in the latest in hip-hop street style that includes Notorious B.I.G., LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane, Ice T, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and Michael Jackson, among others.

"Very quickly we arrived at the notion: As opposed to creating a type of echo of historical precedence, we should try to clear the table", Wiley says, and "start at ground level to create something that hasn't been seen before".

Mrs Obama said: "I'm also thinking about all the young people - particularly girls and girls of colour - who in years ahead will come to this place and they will look up and they will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the wall of this great American institution".

The paintings - Mr. Obama's by Kehinde Wiley and Mrs. Obama's by Amy Sherald - elicited strong reactions for their striking use of colors and the backgrounds in which the Obamas were set.

The artists, chosen by the Obamas, have combined traditional representation with elements that underscore the complexity of their subjects, and the historic fact of their political rise.

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President Obama's portrait is a break from tradition. It could be called a worker's fabric, she adds.

"Ok, now draw me like I'm sitting in a large hedge". Wiley is well-known for his depictions of African Americans in grandiose settings, and Obama joked that he had to ask him to tone it down for the piece.

"What do you want me to tell Romney?"

Sherald's portrait shows Michelle Obama posing in a gown designed by Michelle Smith featuring geometric shapes reminiscent of African textiles. As Media Matters and Upworthy's Parker Molloy first noted yesterday, the far-right has latched on to a pair of Wiley's paintings in which he depicts the biblical story of Judith beheading Holofernes-a frequent subject in Renaissance art-as a black woman holding the head of a white man or a white woman. This was a first for the National Portrait Gallery.

Even before they were painted, the Obama portraits were revolutionary. Most recently, Obama wore a Milly blouse on her final day in the White House.

Ms Obama heaped praise on Ms Sherald's work.

"The more I look at it, the more I love it".

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