Isn’t it interesting how an artist’s choice to place A LOT of greenery on a president’s portrait can turn into an intense, not only artistic, but also cultural, political, ideological, racial and environmental debate?
We cannot deny that this portrait also got our attention exactly because of that beautiful background the artist, Kehinde Wiley chose to paint the official portrait of Barack Obama. The picture depicts the 44th president sitting on a chair against a backdrop of green foliage that appears to somehow take over the painting. Amongst the green leaves we also see some symbolic flowers like chrysanthemums, an official flower of Chicago, jasmine for Hawaii and some African blue lilies to depict Obama’s heritage.
The painter further explained:
"In a very symbolic way what I'm doing is charting his path on Earth through those plants that sort of weave their way. There is a fight going on between him and the foreground and then the plants that are sort of trying to announce themselves underneath his feet. Who gets to be the star of the show? The story or the man who inhabits that story? It's all chance-driven."
Going beyond the simplicity of liking or disliking the portrait, we cannot deny the fact that it is a bold and unusual choice. But perhaps thanks to this overload of greenery it will be the most contemplative painting amongst the others in the presidential gallery at the Smithsonian where it will hang? We have a feeling it just very much might be so…
#neurolandscape #contemplativeart #barackobama #kehindewiley #thesmithsonian