Former President Barack Obama’s presidential portrait made its big reveal Monday at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery leaving many with one question: why is the president sitting in the bushes?
The former president is depicted sitting in a dark wooden chair amid a backdrop of thick green foliage and flowers. Wearing a black suit and white button down shirt, Obama is staring off into space with a pensive countenance.
Amid the ferns pic.twitter.com/K2PyLdQEWR
— Matt Viser (@mviser) February 12, 2018
While a few in the audience made a few audible cheers, many somewhat tepidly clapped as they tried to figure out exactly what was going on in the painting.
Obama commended artist Kehinde Wiley for his work, and made a few jokes about the process leading up to his portrait.
“There were a number of issues that we were trying to negotiate. I tried to negotiate less gray hair. Kehinde’s artistic integrity wouldn’t allow him to do what I asked. I tried to negotiate smaller ears. Struck out on that as well. Maybe the one area where there were some concessions was as I said before, Kehinde often takes ordinary people and elevates them, puts them up and puts them in these fairly elaborate settings. His initial impulse was also to elevate me and put me in the settings with partridges and scepters,” Obama said at the unveiling.
“I had to explain that I have enough political problems without you making me look like Napoleon. We have to bring it down a touch,” Obama said. “And that’s what he did. It is hard to judge something that is a portrait of you. What I can say unequivocally is I am in awe of — I am in awe of Kehinde’s gifts.”
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