Four months after it was announced that Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald would be painting the presidential portraits for former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, the pieces have been unveiled. Wiley, who was the cover artist for Hi-Fructose Vol. 36, debuted a characteristically vibrant and absorbing portrait for the 44th President of the United States, seated against an overgrowth of flowers and foliage. Sherald’s striking painting of the former first lady implemented a dress with a design reminiscent of the work of Dutch abstract painter Piet Mondrian. Sherald was last mentioned on HiFructose.com here.
Wiley says that the flowers are a “nod toward his personal story … There are flowers that point toward Kenya; there are flowers that point toward Hawaii. In a very symbolic way, what I am doing is charting his path on Earth through those plants that weave their way … There’s a fight going on between him and the plants in the foreground that are 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?”
Sherald offers insight on how Michelle Obama, as a person, continues to inspire her: “The act of Michelle Obama being her authentic statement that engaged all of us. What you represent to this country is an ideal: a human being with integrity, intellect, and compassion. And the paintings I create aspire to express these attributes.”
See footage from the unveiling below.