Wiley and Sherald break boundaries as the first black artists to create official presidential portraits for the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery. They posed, hammed, and hugged before Obama spoke: "Look at that". The crowd gasped audibly when the larger-than-life painting appeared before them and then broke into enthusiastic applause. Mr. Wiley told our art reporter Robin Pogrebin that he and Mr. Obama "decided very quickly that we were just going to strike out a path of our own". But never like this.
Most notably, the face Sherald painted didn't quite capture the likeness of the former First Lady-with Fox News asking, "Is that really her?" Her edges are muted, her gaze distant, her skin a charcoal gray.
Her work focuses on African-American subjects, often painted against brilliantly colored backgrounds, and sometimes holding an object (an oversized coffee cup, or a bunch of balloons) that gives the image a sense of the surreal. It's true that the two look similar aesthetically, but it's far more likely that Beyoncé was influenced by Wiley's work, not the other way around. "Attorney General Holder! I hear you're running for president!" What happens when you're painting the head of the free world?
I may like Sherald's work even more - it's not a contest between these two artists, but the full effect hasn't sunk in yet.
A new take on portraiture was welcome by many art critics and fans alike.
Obama, who has been critical of some of President Trump's policies and comments, did not mention his successor in his speech - though he seemed to make a veiled reference to the current scandal engulfing the White House.
This routine isn't at all surprising in our digital age, when images and opinions emerge at a rate faster than any human can consume them.
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National Portrait Gallery Director Kim Sajet said in a press statement: "As a museum of history and art, we have learned over the past half-century that the best portraiture has the power to bring world leaders into dialogue with everyday Americans". Speaking at the portrait's unveiling, the painter said that the shapes reminded her of Gee's Bend, which is an all-black community in Alabama that's known for its quilts.
After the unveiling, Michelle Obama reflected on the otherworldly experience of seeing herself in paint. Sherald explained the archetypal nature of her work, emphasizing Mrs. Obama as a representative figure who will influence generations to come. "Nobody in my family has ever had a portrait ― there are no portraits of the Robinsons or the Shields from the South Side of Chicago".
Wiley, an established artist whose work is held by prominent museums worldwide, has produced a characteristically flat, nearly polished surface, with intensely rich colors and a busy, sumptuous background that recalls his interest in portraiture. In depicting the former president in a seated position imposed over colorful plant life, Wiley departed from years of tradition. She's a mother, a wife, a Chicagoan who worked hard for everything she's got. "The story or the man who inhabits the story?"
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Her long jacket is reminiscent of a similarly bold tartan look that Kate Middleton once wore in 2012 as she celebrated St. Next, the couple made their way to the Palace of Holyroodhouse to meet with Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon .
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