The Obamas’ Official Portraits Were Unveiled Today…And People Had Thoughts

February 12, 2018  |  
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Last fall, we reported that the Obamas had chosen the artists to paint their official portraits. In keeping with their tradition to highlighting and celebrating the work of artists of color, they tapped Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald for the job.

Wiley specializes in rendering Black folk, from commoners to icons, as larger than life, iconic, almost in a religious, canonized context. We spotlighted a few of his pieces in our original coverage, but to refresh your memory, here are some examples of his work.

This is what he did with our beloved President.

As you can see, Wiley’s work, while exaggerated, is still a very true to life. His fellow collaborator, Amy Sherald, the artist who Mrs. Obama selected to capture her likeness, has an entirely different style.

The facial features aren’t always the focus. The skin tones are completely washed out and appear gray, the subject’s stance and attire often draw your attention. So it makes sense that her portrait of Mrs. Obama would follow her signature style.

As with anything for the culture, there were opinions, good and bad. Check them out on the following pages.

Thankfully, there were those who stepped up in defense of Sherald’s work.


As for Sherald, she had this to say as her work was displayed.

“You exist in our minds and our hearts in the way that we do because we can see ourselves in you.”


And if you’re wondering what Michelle Obama thought of the work, she said she was a bit overwhelmed to say the least.

The reaction to Kehinde’s art was also pretty strong.

You can watch the full ceremony in the video below.


Veronica Wells is the culture editor at She is also the author of “Bettah Days” and the creator of the website NoSugarNoCreamMag. You can follow her on Facebook and on Instagram and Twitter @VDubShrug.

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