CHARLOTTE, NC, February 16, 2018. Let’s stop all the blather about the Obama portrait and tell it like it really is; they are the equivalent of a black velvet Elvis.
Barack Obama’s floral tribute is a metaphor for his presidency, and that is not a good thing. While the image of Mr. Obama itself is superb, the backdrop is about as flora as you can get for someone who was supposed to represent the most powerful leader in the world.
The only worse background would have been to show the president teeing up a golf ball in the middle of a terrorist attack.
Barack Obama is a man who won the Nobel Peace Prize before he ever took office, and his portrait certainly captures that aura.
Artist Kehinde Wiley is known for his vivid use of color in his representations, so it should not have come as any surprise that the 44th president would be pictured in an Eden-like garden filled with chrysanthemums, lilies, and jasmine.
One writer said that “(Obama) practically levitates amid the verdure.” Which sounds more like liberal mumbo-jumbo at his own deep sense of sadness that he feels after losing the presidency.
To say that
“The image is a striking departure from the staid presentation of many of the other 43 Presidents” is an understatement.
No self-respecting Obama supporter would ever dare mention that the portraits are as undignified as was his presidency, because, though that would truthful, it would also be regarded as racist.
Case in point is the gushing lavish praise heaped upon the Obama’s by “Dallas News” contributor Rachelle Hampton who wrote,
“President Barack and first lady Michelle Obama appear as their occupancy of the White House did: a dazzling and elegant streak of light and color. President Obama is set against a riot of greenery that, according to the artist, charts ‘his path on Earth through those plants.'”
The portrait explained
According to Kehinde Wiley, the chrysanthemums represent the official flower of Chicago, Obama’s hometown, the jasmine alludes to Hawaii and the lilies symbolize Kenya in tribute to the former president’s father.
All well and good, but even with that explanation, the background remains undignified and downright tacky.
Imagine if George W. Bush had posed for this gallery presidential portrait. The uproar that would have resulted among the opposition.
Better yet, why not have Bush pose astride a horse wearing chaps and pointing a six-shooter in the air.
After all, he was known as the “Cowboy President.”
Michelle Obama’s portrait
Michelle Obama’s portrait, painted by Amy Sherald, is more traditional than her husband’s. The controversy surrounding her image is primarily that it does not look like Michelle Obama.
The response has been that it is not intended to be a “photographic” likeness but rather a representation of both the physical and spiritual woman.
Question: How many times in your life have you viewed a portrait of a well-known historical figure and said “That doesn’t really look like the person, but it represents them well.”
If I view a picture of Marie Antoinette or Cleopatra or George Washington, I want to see them as they really were so that I can better understand their role in history.
Were it not for the fact that Michelle Obama is the first, and so far, only, black first lady in American history, there is no doubt the image represents her, but IF she were white, the portrait could be of just about anyone.
Doing it their way
The Obama’s made it a daily responsibility to be controversial in one way or another. The presidential portraits merely carry on that tradition.
Clearly Mr. Obama’s image will stand out among all the other presidents because it is so different. That does not make it good, or dignified.
When I.M. Pei unveiled the glass pyramid entrance to the Louvre in France, it was so drastically out of context with the rest of the property that it made its own statement.
Today, the pyramid still makes a statement and it still remains out of context.
Barack Obama’s entire presidency was out of context with the thinking of most of the American people. He just didn’t care and his apologists, because he represented their party, let him get away with it.
So too will the new National Gallery “Garden of Eden” with Barack Obama sitting serenely among the hedges.
Obama’s portrait is, indeed, a metaphor for his time in office. He posed as president for eight years, and he is still posing today.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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