New Paintings of Michelle and Barack Draw Masses to the Smithsonian!

It’s been over a week since the unveiling of new paintings of Michelle and Barack Obama, and the museum’s attendance has risen 300%–contrary to what critics proposed! Attendees waited hours in lines that wrapped around the building to view both portraits and/or take selfies! The exhibits have attracted over 72,000 viewers, and counting. 50,000 visitors came over the Presidents’ Day weekend, which is three times the amount of those who showed up in 2017. The attraction has even been more successful than the previous tapestry of Obama that was unveiled after his second inauguration—which garnered around 6,000 guests. Both portraits were hailed “unconventional” from traditional presidential paintings. This is largely (and debatably) due to the fact that both of the paintings were crafted by contemporary African American artists! Kehinde Wiley, the artist behind Obama’s portrait is widely known for placing African Americans in “heroic poses” that demonstrate wealth and strength. In the past, he’s painted Michael Jackson as King Philip II and Ice T as Napoleon. Wiley told Vanity Fair in 2006, “the whole conversation of my work has to do with power and who has it.” Wiley painted Obama leaning forward in a chair that is similar to the chair in Gilbert Stuart’s painting of George Washington. Nature is a recurring theme in Wiley’s work. Thus, in this portrait, Obama is surrounded by green foliage adorned with colorful flowers. The blue flowers represent Kenya, the jasmine represents Hawaii, and the chrysanthemums represents Chicago. Amy Sherald is the mastermind behind Michelle’s portrait, and has likewise always used Black people as a muse in her artistry. Sherald won the National Portait Gallery’s Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition in 2016. Her work is characterized by her subjects being portrayed in “grayscale,” lifting them from the background. Neither the blue background nor Michelle’s blue nails are a coincidence. It is intentional, representing the time when Michelle showed up to the 2012 DNC wearing blue nails. Michelle is strikingly elegant, yet subtle and cool in the portrait. Her arms are “controversially” bare, exuding the power and audacity that she is known for having. Hats off, and three snaps and a twirl to Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, for making Black History, DURING the month of February!]]>

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