Barack and Michelle Obama official portraits unveiled at National Portrait Gallery
Today the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery unveiled the official portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama. (And it's only a matter of time before Donald Trump paints mustaches on them.)
The paintings are part of the "America's Presidents" exhibit, which displays portraits of every United States president. It's a routine ceremony, but this unveiling is unlike any other, as it features the first African-American president and First Lady. Also, they chose two black artists to do the portraits (another first) who are known for their unconventional, modern style.
Michelle chose Baltimore artist Amy Sherald, who's known for painting her subjects with gray-toned skin to subvert expectations about race. In the portrait, the former first lady looks as cool as ever, rocking a sleeveless flowing gown in a light blue field. And Barack approved, saying, "Amy, I want to thank you for capturing the grace and beauty and intelligence and charm — and hotness — of the woman that I love." (Smooth, Barack!)
Some people criticized the portrait, saying it didn't resemble Michelle:
Others defended the artist, pointing out that the unrealistic, gray scale look is part of the creative style:
For his portrait, Barack chose New York City painter Kehinde Wile, and jokes he wasn't able to "negotiate smaller ears." I was hoping Kehinde would paint the former president jet-skiing, or sitting on The Iron Throne, but he decided to go in a different direction. Rocking his signature black suit and no tie, Barack sits tensely forward on a wooden chair amongst a background of greenery and colorful flowers.
On social media, people poked fun at the flowery background. Some people thought it was reminiscent of Beyonce's photo on Instagram, where she unveiled her twins.
Other people thought it looked like that meme from The Simpsons, where Homer slowly disappears into the bushes.
But for the most part, people praised the portraits for their striking contemporary style. They also thought it was fitting that the first black first family commissioned the first two black artists to paint portraits for the presidential exhibit.
Michelle acknowledge the historic moment, saying, "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. I know the kind of impact that will have on their lives, because I was one of those girls."
The portraits are available for the public to view at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. While the modern style might catch some people off-guard, I think it's great they went in that direction. I mean, do we really need hyper-realistic paintings, when there are millions of high-resolution photos of the former first couple already? I'm a bit disappointed Michelle Obama wasn't riding a unicorn while carrying a flaming sword, but hey, this is still pretty cool.