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Obama Reveals Unconventional Portrait By Nigerian Painter

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Ms Obama heaped praise on Ms Sherald's work. Michelle Obama's mom Marian Robinson and her brother Craig Robinson were also in attendance. Wiley and Sherald were the first black artists commissioned to paint a presidential couple for the Smithsonian.

"Wiley and Sherald are artists who are involved in the contemporary world of art, they are artists who question the tradition of portraiture and its limits, in particular its pattern of exclusion of minorities, of black people, of dark people, and they do so by focusing on those subjects who have been outside of that tradition, "explained Caragol". The dress forms a pyramid, with the face atop, in a way that suggests a protective carapace, hiding from view the first lady's body and some of her femininity, which were targets of racist attack during her tenure in the East Wing.

The unveiling of the Obama portraits at the National Gallery was always going to be a huge moment, and it sure as hell didn't disappoint.

Art historian Paul Staiti says the Obama portraits - full of color and unique concepts - are fresh and exciting in a field of generally staid presidential portraiture.

"When you look at this painting, you see a sure and wonderful handsome man", Wiley said.

"My real takeaway is that the portrait really does defer to this aura that Obama has, of both being very much a representative black man but also one who, with those wonderful hand gestures, has a side that is sensitive, that is empathetic, that is loving, that is caring".

"The shape of the dress, rising pyramidally upward, mountain-like, feels as if it were the real subject of the portrait".

Reacting to his own portrait, Obama quipped, "that's pretty sharp!"

"I'm also thinking of all the young people, particularly girls and girls of color, who ... will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the wall of this great American institution", she added.

"I would have been one of those athletes whose heart just stops and no one knows why", Sherald told the magazine.

Barack Obama drew claps and laughs when he admitted, "We miss you guys". "What did they say?" she asked to no one. The greenery takes on the symbolism of his past as he leans forward toward his future.

"The ability to be the first African American painter to paint the first African American president of the United States was absolutely overwhelming", Wiley said.

Kehinde Wiley is known for august portraits of African American figures and has formerly painted such icons as Michael Jackson, Grandmaster Flash, and the Notorious B.I.G.

These official portraits are not destined for the White House; that's a different gig. I am sure we'll hear a lot from the Obamas in the years ahead. The former president's portrait featured him sitting on a chair surrounded by fauna from Illinois, Hawaii and Africa, representing his heritage.

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