People Tried, And Failed, To Come For Obama's Portrait Artist For Creating Paintings Of Black Women Decapitating White Women

Former US President Barack Obama shakes hands with his portrait's artist, Kehinde Wiley, after its unveiling at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, February 12, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION - TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION        (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

People Tried, And Failed, To Come For Obama's Portrait Artist For Creating Paintings Of Black Women Decapitating White Women

"Boy do I have some history books for you."

Published February 13, 2018

There are times when it seems that people have nothing better to do than drudge up someone's past in an effort to discredit them. This was seen when the success of Barack Obama's portrait artist, Kehinde Wiley, was met by criticism that some of his paintings show Black women decapitating white people.

Although these people tried to come for Wiley, other people more well-versed in art history immediately schooled them with the facts. 

For those unfamiliar with Wiley's work, he is only known as the lucky artist chosen to paint the official Smithsonian portrait of the 44th president. As his name rose in popularity, his past work was scrutinized by the media. 

  1. The paintings in question featured Black women holding decapitated heads of white women
  2. It took no time at all for the tired echoes of 'what if the races were reversed' to be tweeted
  3. And they were met by people who were happy to explain how art works
  4. Wiley, who has never hid from the controversial nature surrounding his work, has explained the imagery in the past

    In a 2012 explanation of the work from the North Carolina Museum of Art foundation, the description read:

    "Judith and Holofernes is from Wiley's most recent body of work and his first series of paintings to feature female subjects.

    "Wiley translates this image of a courageous, powerful woman into a contemporary version that resonates with fury and righteousness."

  5. Everyone who tried to come for Wiley were given visual evidence of his artistic allusions

    In a 2012 New York Magazine piece, Wiley explained his inspiration was derived from the renditions of the Biblical scene by Renaissance artists Caravaggio and Gentileschi.

    Wiley is known for painting Black, contemporary subjects in situations seen in classic art, which is why he illustrated Judith as a strong, Black woman.

Written by Rachel Herron

(Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)


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