So for this year, I’ve renamed Black History Month to Black Panther Month. If you don’t know why, shame on you. In the meantime though, Black History to continues to happen all around us and we should continue to applaud all of the #peakblackexcellence every time it happens.
For example, the only POTUS and Forever FLOTUS I acknowledge in these 20-teens are once again giving us reasons to stand tall, applaud, and cry happy tears of joy.
Per CNN.com “The former first couple’s official portraits were unveiled at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, a rite of passage for most former presidents, all of whom have their portraits hanging in the museum.” The difference is that this is the first Black President (because there will be others, as well as women Presidents and other People of Color) to grace the Smithsonian, and the first Black First Lady of the Unites States to do the same. As reported in several publications, the power couple interviewed and vetted the artists who were commissioned, with former President and First Lady Obama choosing Keyhinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, respectively, for the final portraits. And the results still have people talking, four days later.
Keyhinde Wiley, known for utilizing floral patterns in his work, used flowers of significance for Mr. Obama: the African blue lilies represent Kenya, Barack’s father’s birthplace; jasmine stands for Hawaii, where he was born; and the chrysanthemums, the official flower of Chicago, reference the city where his political career began, and where he met Michelle – according to the NY Times. President Obama looks…presidential: wise and strong and competent and capable and charismatic – all the traits we knew and loved while he was in office.
Amy Sherald created the portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama and it appears to have the most debate. While Ms. Sherald’s work is known for using greyscale to depict Black subjects, people have commented that this particular piece is too “grey”, not dark enough, not enough color, the blue background is too light, too flat, and the depiction of Aunty Shelly is not Shelly enough. Oh my, it’s a portrait, meaning it’s the artists’ rendition, who said it had to be exact? You can tell it’s Michelle Obama, her pose is regal and strong and polished and purposeful – again, traits that we came to know and appreciate about FLOTUS while she graced us with her presence in the White House. And I love the dress, I wanna know where I can find a copy…after I get these arms in shape.
So what’s all the rah-rah about Ms. Sherald’s rendition? Did she create a Picasso-when-he-was-crazy version? It is what it is, and Mrs. O know what she was signing up for when she signed her up. On the flip side, I don’t agree with the comments that people need to study the artists or go experience art before they comment. That defeats the purpose of viewing art. Art is everywhere and is subject to interpretation base on your personal views. So this may not be an exact likeness in the exact colors that many were expecting, but I don’t agree that you need to study other portraits to have an opinion about this one. Everyone should take a few deep breaths and keep it moving. You know POTUS and FLOTUS did.
How awesome is it though that two Black artists were asked to create indelible permanent portraits of two of the most important figures in our immediate history, the first Black President and First Lady of these United States? Really, how amazing and special and excellent is all this blackness that just happened? During Black History Black Panther Black Panther History Month? C’mon now. Let’s celebrate this peak blackness that just happened, during the reign of he-who-shall-not-be-named. And couldn’t didn’t find time to make an appearance in support of – which is probably for the best; you just know he would have found a way to make it about him. It would have just messed up a historic moment, and now that I’ve typed two sentences too many about B-I-C, let’s bring it back to the reason for this post. The best POTUS and FLOTUS in my lifetime hired two Black artists to render their portraits for the Smithsonian and the results speak for themselves.
Get into it! Your thoughts?