The official portraits of Barack Obama by Kehinde Wiley and Michelle Obama by Amy Sherald have been revealed.
At first, I liked them but thought, “Those are the official portraits, to be in the gallery? I don’t know how I feel about that – they’re so….modern!” Then I remembered we are in the 21st century and I should not be expecting more of the same…in fact, I should be embracing something new.
So, here are my thoughts on the Barack Obama portrait.
It is fresh.
He is in a flower garden, which is fresh and fragrant and alive. He is not inside by a stack of books, which would showcase the past. He is in the present moment.
It is vibrant.
Look at the diversity and colors of flowers. America is diverse and colorful, and this portrait seems to be saying that is beautiful. And if you plant seeds and care for them, beautiful flowers will grow and blossom.
Also, when you visit the gallery, guess which Presidential portrait will appeal to children? The colorful, vibrant one – the future generation will be choosing this version of America.
He is an outsider.
The President is not inside the White House like past Presidents. He is an outsider. But, he’s sitting in contemplation. (And, he’s been there a while, as the flowers are not crumpled from his footsteps.) There’s a feeling that even though he doesn’t have history physically surrounding him, we as viewers can see him thinking about everything that has happened in the office, and what his role will be in history.
There’s a wall.
A wall of flowers. No bricks, no stones, no glass.
Here’s the image, to be displayed in the great hall: a man looking strong but kind in front of a wall of flowers. It’s pretty great.
I then listened to the artist talk about the work, and discovered the meaning of each flower in the painting. I highly recommend going to YouTube and watching the video of the unveiling.