After every President finishes his (or her) term, they are expected to sit for an official portrait that will eventually be displayed in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. While past Presidents have opted for staid, conservative portraitists, Barack Obama has chosen an openly queer artist who specializes in realistic depictions of black subjects.
Nigerian-American painter Kehinde Wiley, who is known for his extraordinarily detailed, larger-than-life portraits of Michael Jackson, LL Cool J, and others, has made a living out of painting modern black subjects in the style of Europe’s old white masters. In Wiley’s deft hands, a snapshot of a young contemporary black man becomes sublime and grandiose. Wiley’s flair for religious imagery helps imbue his subjects with grace and power, while his byzantine patterns and serene poses pay homage to his European influences.
“As a child, I grew up studying and worshiping those great works of Western European painting. But I also wanted to fulfill the goal of feeling a certain personal presence in that work.”
Wiley has also opened up about his sexuality in the past:
“I am not bi,” he said. “I’ve had perfectly pleasant romances with women, but they weren’t sustainable. My passion wasn’t there. I would always be looking at guys.”
So just think about that: While Trump is joking about hanging gay people, his predecessor is paying a gay man one of the highest honors that any artist could ever receive. What is this world coming to??
And speaking of which: Who do you all think Trump will commission for his portrait? Melania? Jeff Sessions? Himself? His hands may be small, but they are nimble. Give the man a 29 crayon Crayola box and see what he can do.