On February 12, 2018, a beautiful Monday morning, Barack and Michelle Obama’s official portraits were unveiled for all to see at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. Their portraits will hang in the gallery next to every past U.S. President. The portraits are unlike any of the others that hang in the gallery today, and not in a good way.
Kehinde Wiley is an African-American painter who is highly known for his naturalistic paintings of African-Americans in strong, proud poses and is the artist who painted Barack Obama. The portrait gallery writes, “through this practice, he challenges the visual rhetoric of power that is dominated by elite white men.” Kehinde is very proud of his work. He stated, “The ability to be the first African-American painter to paint the first African-American president of the United States is absolutely overwhelming.”
Barack Obama’s portrait shows him sitting on a wooden chair with his elbows on his knees and a stern look on his face. The background of the photo is covered with greens leaves and flowers. Yes… the power and dominance of Barack Obama is symbolized by pretty little flowers and bright green leaves. Now that I think about it, it’s a perfect portrayal of the former president. Outstanding job Kehinde.
Next, we have Michelle Obama’s portrait. The artist that was chosen to paint Michelle was Amy Sherald, an African-American painter from Baltimore, Maryland who only paints African-Americans. Her work focuses on social justice and issues in regards to race and identity.
The first thing you will ask yourself when you look at Michelle Obama’s portrait is, “who is that?” That’s because the portrait looks like a woman 20 years younger and I will be honest and say that it’s better to look at as well. Ben Howe sarcastically wrote in a Tweet, “For Michelle Obama’s portrait, we decided to paint someone else.” The next thing about her painting is the color of Michelle’s skin, which is gray. “Gray makes the paintings work. But it’s also a way for me to subversively comment about race without feeling as though I’m excluding the viewer.” Sherald said.
An already embarrassing former administration now graces our nation with even more embarrassment for all to see.