The official unveiling of the painting of President Barack Obama & First Lady Michelle Obama was unveiled yesterday. Kehinde Wiley, born in Los Angeles and currently residing in NYC, painted President Obama. The painting was unveiled in a ceremony at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery on Feb. 12th. “Obama is seated in an ornate brown chair, his arms folded neatly across his lap. Bright green vines illuminate the background; buds of lilies, chrysanthemums and jasmine are peppered throughout.” Wiley, making his mark on American history with the striking illustration of the 7-by-5-ft. painting, was sure to stamp his signature style within the artwork with the selected hues of color and texture and brown subject of course. And I would have to agree with others, that with slight focus, the magic of the painting engulfs you as it appears that Obama is levitating after his 8 year stint as the first black President of The United States Of America.
A striking painting for a striking man that transcended the limited beliefs of a nation in many ways. The most colorful painting in the Smithsonian Institute, reflecting the idea of the most colorful, yet unassuming man to be the POTUS. A painting that encodes deep roots and a rich history and legacy through the botanicals represented: African blue lilies (symbolize Obama’s father’s home country, Kenya); Chrysanthemums (the official flower of the city of Chicago, where Obama’s political and Family life began) and Pikake or Arabian jasmine (thrives in Hawaii, where Obama spent his youth). It’s poetically beautiful as it reflects the true multiculturalism that America possesses, yet you rarely witness on Capitol Hill.
Wiley tells TIME, “The way we think about a presidential portrait is one that is imbued with dignity from the outset. It is a vocabulary that has been fixed. The challenge here was to allow certain aspects of Barack Obama’s power and respectability to be a given so that we could move forward with a different type of narrative.” And that he did as each paint brush stoke reveals a layer of character, charisma and poise that we all experienced, most times in awe, from Obama. Obama was not a perfect President as no one is perfect at anything. But this truth, illuminates the power of the painting as it unravels the layers of Obama as the man.
Wiley is widely known for his naturalistic paintings that are heroic when it comes to challenging the image and status of young black Americans within contemporary culture. A graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute in 1999 and the Yale University School Of Art in 2001, it’s no wonder that he was commissioned in October 2017 to be the first black American to paint the official presidential painting. Be sure to check out some of Wiley’s other work that is just as captivating also.
And Kehinde Wiley, you get the heART Of Cool STAMP my brother✊!
💜Love & Light☀,
CRISTEN M. MILLS