One can only imagine the outrage, marches and demonstrations (and perhaps riots) that would have occurred had a white racist artist been commissioned to paint the official portrait of first lady Laura Bush. The artist, Kehinde Wiley, explained that the flowers chart his path on earth.
Mark Wilson via Getty Images A detail of artist Amy Sherald's portrait of Michelle Obama
"I'm thinking of all the girls of colour who will come and see someone who looks like them hanging on the wall of this great American Institution", said the former United States first lady.
The dress was modeled after a piece from the label's spring 2017 collection. She tells All Things Considered host Ari Shapiro that she was keenly aware of the challenge of painting an already famous person.
The article included an excerpt from a 2008 New York Times profile, which claimed of Wiley: "His portraits initially depicted African-American men against rich textile or wallpaper backgrounds whose patterns he has likened to abstractions of sperm". The shroud bunched up at the base, obscuring the recommended hashtag. Folks on the internet don't seem quite sure what those questions and answers might be - but they definitely had some opinions to offer on the matter just the same.
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"How about that? That's pretty sharp", Obama joked, as he thanked staff and friends in attendance.
If, as Wiley has said, his intent as an artist is to be provocative, he can consider himself successful.
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The former president gave a shoutout to Sherald for capturing his wife's "hotness".
The Obamas became the first presidential couple to be painted by African American artists. The face is clearly and accurately that of a serious, stone-faced and thoughtful Obama, one who appears to be sitting and contemplating, "What do I do next?"
The former President admired the artist's approach to challenging "conventional views of power and privilege", although he asked Wiley to resist painting him "like Napoleon". Wiley elevates people in our world who'd otherwise be invisible, he said, like those who serve the food or keep this museum clean.
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He also received praise when he stated another possible slight to President Donald Trump, that "part of what I believe politics should be about is not simply celebrating the high and the mighty and expecting that the country unfolds from the top down, but rather that it comes from the bottom up". Here the former president invited Wiley to speak.