Its every artists’ dream to create something that is well received, and to earn a living off of doing something that they love. The latest Presidential portraits are evidence of this. These portraits are not your typical portraits of presidents and their first ladies, but they are not the first unique ones.
I remember visiting the White house as a teenager, and the presidential portrait that struck me was the abstract one of President Kennedy. Not a traditional one, but one of him looking down, and pensive. It had big strokes, and was a “looser” style painting. I still enjoy seeing it, and it is probably the first piece of art that I had appreciated.
I found this on Wikpedia, about that painting:
President John F. Kennedy’s official portrait was painted posthumously by Aaron Shikler by request of Jacqueline Kennedy in 1970. It is generally analyzed as a character study. Unlike most presidential portraits, Kennedy’s depicts the president as pensive, with eyes downcast and arms folded. According to Shikler, Jackie’s only stipulation was for him to create an image different from “the way everybody else makes him look, with the bags under his eyes and that penetrating gaze. I’m tired of that image.” Shikler drew a few sketches based on photographs, one of which was inspired by Ted Kennedy’s somber pose at his brother’s grave, his arms crossed and his head bowed. Jackie chose that sketch as the final pose. Shikler also painted the official White House portraits of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and the Kennedy children.
This being said, I like the portraits of President Obama and his wife Michelle. I think the Kehinde Wiley did an incredible job with his face, and I like the meaning of the flowers and leaves around him, referring to his heritage of being born in Hawaii, life in Chicago, and so on. I also like the portrait of Michelle, by Amy Sherald, the meaning behind the dress, and the strength that her pose and arms show. I think both portraits are unique and unlike other portraits, which is probably why I like them.
I do not however care for the fact that the artist that painted the President’s portrait, has a few paintings with African American women holding severed heads of white women. I appreciate the fact that I live in a country that he can paint such paintings, but I also appreciate the fact that I do not have to like them, and can tell the world in a blog, or facebook post. And I also wonder if I was an artist that only painted white subjects, and then had a painting holding a severed head of a black person, how that would go over. Artists have always pushed the limits and made a statement, and will continue to do so, and that’s exactly what this artist is doing.
Kudos to Kehinde Wiley, and Congrats to Amy Sherald.