I kind of wish that presidents and former presidents could have their choice in what kind of portraiture medium they wanted for their formal portraits. Like, how many of them would choose to just sit for an esteemed photographer, as opposed to sitting for a painted portrait? But for some reason, we cling to painted portraits for presidents. Which is where we are now. Michelle and Barack Obama unveiled their official portraits yesterday and a lot of people have a lot of thoughts. Let’s start with former President Obama’s portrait, painted by African-American art superstar Kehinde Wiley:
How are we judging this? I give it bonus points because you can tell it’s Obama. Wiley captured him perfectly. I personally don’t like the whole “Obama seated in a chair, leaning forward.” That’s strange body language for the former POTUS. As for the “Wall of Leaves” behind, surrounding and almost overtaking Obama… I kind of enjoy how trippy it is. It feels like it was painted by a very talented marijuana enthusiast.
Michelle’s portrait was painted by African-American art-world rising star Amy Sherald. Here is is:
This one has the kind of elegance I need for a FLOTUS portrait. She’s wearing a gorgeous ballgown, she looks regal, and it’s a striking and modern image. My problem with this is that Sherald didn’t really get Michelle’s face right. Is this Michelle Obama or Kerry Washington? It’s fine though, I guess. Mostly it’s just nice to see the Obamas and have a few moments where we aren’t terrified about and angry at Donald Trump.
Photos courtesy of Getty.