Obama Reveals Unconventional Portrait By Nigerian Painter

Obama Reveals Unconventional Portrait By Nigerian Painter

Obama Reveals Unconventional Portrait By Nigerian Painter

Designer Michelle Smith was standing in the middle of a jean shop in the Marais neighborhood of Paris when her publicist called to tell her that Michelle Obama's official portrait had been unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery and the former first lady was wearing Smith's dress in the painting.

We're still in awe of the stunning portrait of Michelle Obama that was revealed at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. yesterday. "That's because, as a former president, when you choose an artist to describe your likeness, you have the opportunity to shape, quite literally, how someone sees the office of the American presidency".

A few others noticed similarities between Barack's portrait and Beyoncé's iconic maternity portrait.

"Very quickly we arrived at the notion: As opposed to creating a type of echo of historical precedence, we should try to clear the table", Wiley says, and "start at ground level to create something that hasn't been seen before". "African blue lilies represent Kenya, his father's birthplace; jasmine stands for Hawaii, where Mr. Obama himself was born; chrysanthemums, the official flower of Chicago, reference the city where his political career began, and where he met his wife".

The challenge, then, for Wiley - and for Sherald - was that neither subject was ordinary. Her subjects, including the first lady, are exposed, and open, and that in itself is fairly radical within the narrow limits of presidential portraiture. "It's not really a representation of her".

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Sitting on an elaborate wooden chair that seems to float on the canvas, his image also draws attention for the contrasts between his serious and thoughtful look, and his black suit, with a white shirt casual style and devoid of tie.

Artist Amy Sherald created Michelle Obama's portrait, in which she wears a custom geometric halter dress designed by Michelle Smith, the creative director at Milly.

At the portrait unveiling, Sherald said she was drawn to this particular dress because it reminded her of quilts made by African American women in the South.

There has been some criticism, especially on social media, that the portraits are odd, and that Sherald's painting doesn't particularly look like Michelle Obama.

Kehinde Wiley, the artist behind Obama's portrait, is not some run-of-the-mill painter, however. She focuses on African-Americans and renders them with great psychological intimacy. Michelle Obama's portrait, for its part, is now hanging in a hallway for several months, after which its fate is unclear. Ms. Sherald's image of Mrs. Obama overemphasizes an element of couturial spectacle, but also projects a rock-solid cool. As with many works of art, this was meant to be provocative ("I think at its best what art is doing is setting up a set of provocations", Wiley said in a 2015 interview).

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