Wiley’s history of controversial paintings does not qualify as news. A story on the artist’s “past works featuring scandalous subjects” appeared in the U.K.’s Daily Mail in 2018. Talking about the works in an interview with New York magazine in 2012, Wiley said, “It’s sort of a play on the ‘kill whitey’ thing.” Meanwhile, the Obama portrait hangs in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. Still, the side-by-side images of Obama and the two decapitations generated fresh outrage this week. “Evil,” one X user tweeted.
Obama’s official portrait was painted by Kehinde Wiley, a black artist who loves depicting whites being decapitatedWhat would happen if the races were reversed and it was Trump? pic.twitter.com/wVxhk2ncGd — End Wokeness (@EndWokeness) August 10, 2023
Others found the paintings “disturbing” and “sick.”
Evil.— Grant (@withgrnt) August 10, 2023
Disturbing! And people call this art?— Sgn75 (@Sgn75) August 10, 2023
On the question of what might happen if the portrait depicted former President Donald Trump and the races were reversed in the decapitation paintings, one person offered a guess. “There would be an outrage and the portrait the artist painted would be removed immediately & there would be endless media reports & editorials about it,” the X user tweeted.
Still be sick no matter what color.. There’s no color for evil— 👽KLtha1🖖🏿 (@KLsounds) August 10, 2023
As a general principle, one does not begrudge Wiley or any artist an appropriate degree of license. His decapitations would provoke little outrage, for instance, if they represented a historical event or something equally authentic. [firefly_poll] The artist, however, did not intend this kind of representation. Nor did Obama understand Wiley’s work in that context. The former president, of course, bears no direct responsibility for Wiley’s past paintings. Neither, however, can he feign ignorance of those paintings. In fact, at the unveiling of his portrait, Obama praised Wiley’s body of artistic work. “What I was always struck by whenever I saw [Wiley’s] portraits was the degree to which they challenged our conventional views of power and privilege and the way that he would take extraordinary care and precision and vision in recognizing the beauty and the grace and the dignity of people who are so often invisible in our lives and put them on a grand stage, on a grand scale, and force us to look and see them in ways that so often they were not,” Obama said, according to the National Portrait Gallery’s website. If this does not amount to a direct endorsement of Wiley’s violent depictions, it nonetheless proves Obama’s familiarity with the artist’s style and message. Furthermore, readers will recognize the race-mongering phrases in Obama’s statement. The former president cited “conventional views of power and privilege” and “people who are so often invisible.” Here he reflected modern Democratic thought, where things such as privilege and visibility depend on skin color. For nearly two centuries, Democrats have pursued power by sorting Americans into categories based on complexion. They do not appear poised to stop anytime soon. This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
There would be an outrage and the portrait the artist painted would be removed immediately & there would be endless media reports & editorials about it.— Eric Pistey (@shawnpisteySC) August 10, 2023