It's astounding and incredibly noteworthy that an African-American Gay artist painted the official Presidential Portrait (the first to do so) of the first African-American President for the Smithsonian. I've seen divisiveness on the piece itself but this has easily become one of my favorite pieces I've seen in the last decade. From the connections to each of the plants (representing Hawaii, Chicago, etc) to the chair and stance playing homage to Lincoln's portrait but flipped horizontally, his figure is seated in an inquisitive and easily approachable position. It's such an amazing contrast especially seen next to the past few official portraits - a tieless casual George Bush, and a standing Bill Clinton (with a shadow reflection of Monica Lewinsky that people didn't find out until years later) which are more by the book standard realism portraits. I could go on and on but I'll attach an article that points out a lot of great references and information on this piece and of the former first lady's portrait. If you get a chance look at the rest of the work by Kehinde Wiley too. I remember seeing some of his pieces in the mid 2000's and was blown away at how he constructed portraits and patterns with historical references and twisting that to be a commentary on race in the present. It's amazing to see him chosen as the artist for the official portrait.
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