SEVERE WX : Winter Weather Advisory - Lake Effect Snow Warning View Alerts

African-American portrait artist: Can't ignore Obamas' choice of artists like us

The artist who painted former President Barack Obama's official presidential portrait hailed the former first couple'...

Posted: Feb 13, 2018 9:22 AM
Updated: Feb 13, 2018 9:22 AM

The artist who painted former President Barack Obama's official presidential portrait hailed the former first couple's choice of black artists for both paintings, calling it a signal that it was now OK for the work of artists who look like them to hang in the halls of the world's great institutions.

"We can't not recognize the important significance of representation in art and the decision that this president and first lady have made in choosing artists like ourselves," said Kehinde Wiley, a Yale University-trained painter who was the first African-American artist to execute an official presidential portrait for the National Portrait Gallery.

"[T]hey're signaling to the rest of the world that it is OK to occupy skin that happens to look like this ... on the great walls of museums in the world," he told CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

"In so doing what I see there is true leadership," Wiley continued. "I see people who have the vision and the intent to not only be great people, but great thought leaders."

The Obamas' official portraits were unveiled at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery on Monday, a rite of passage for former presidents, all of whom have their portraits hanging in the museum.

The portrait of Barack Obama depicts him sitting against a backdrop of green foliage. Wiley's background choice was also indicative of Obama's background. Wiley said he was "charting his path on Earth."

The different flowers woven into the greenery include a chrysanthemum, the official flower of Chicago, and jasmine for Hawaii. There also are some African blue lilies, symbolic of Obama's heritage.

For her portrait, Michelle Obama chose Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald. Sherald is another African-American artist known for her unique style, and her portraits also tend to underscore themes of social justice.

"It was something I had never even dreamed of," Sherald said, also speaking on "Amanpour" on Monday. "To find myself here is really just unbelievable. On one hand, I feel like I know why I was chosen, on other hand it's just such a ... I can't even put it into words yet."

New York Coronavirus Cases

County data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1242561

Reported Deaths: 40993
CountyCasesDeaths
Queens1550597836
Kings1519718037
Suffolk1259252577
Nassau1127022540
Bronx1038695255
Westchester837081789
New York744523434
Erie513841360
Richmond442101373
Monroe43659753
Rockland31509806
Orange28386642
Onondaga27190524
Oneida16502341
Dutchess16327304
Albany15981252
Niagara11822239
Broome10866254
Saratoga898479
Schenectady8480122
Ulster7548189
Rensselaer6693102
Putnam638674
Chemung5534107
Chautauqua546056
Oswego481663
Ontario464781
Steuben4541131
Cayuga431069
Sullivan376548
Genesee363098
Wayne360650
Herkimer352851
St. Lawrence349656
Cattaraugus334460
Jefferson309421
Madison307375
Livingston264538
Tompkins261322
Cortland260453
Columbia239769
Allegany232875
Montgomery216772
Tioga216754
Wyoming211441
Clinton209117
Fulton203948
Warren200437
Greene199557
Orleans189868
Chenango170439
Otsego162323
Lewis145123
Washington143823
Seneca120345
Franklin11039
Delaware99019
Essex95916
Schoharie8825
Yates79516
Schuyler71010
Hamilton1451
Unassigned39101
Out of NY0164
Rome
Cloudy
29° wxIcon
Hi: 28° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 20°
Binghamton
Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 23°
Rome
Cloudy
29° wxIcon
Hi: 30° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 20°
Rome
Cloudy
29° wxIcon
Hi: 23° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 20°
WKTV Radar
WKTV Temperatures
WKTV Severe Weather
2021 Golfer's Paradise Card - 21 Courses for only $99.99
Saluting Those Who Are Proud 2 Serve