It’s not as though Americans could be said to have forgotten the fact that, just two years ago at this time, we had a president in office who had a documented commitment to advancing the causes of the underprivileged among us. Now we just have a guy who thinks that putting a wall in between us and our closest southern ally is a good idea.
Still, as a fitting reminder of the heights we are still capable of as a nation, on Monday, President Obama and his wife Michelle Obama made the latest in a string of public appearances, this time in Washington, D.C., at the Smithsonian Institution.
On Monday, the official portraits of the two of them were unveiled, with Barack’s to hang in the hall of presidents and Michelle’s to hang in a separate gallery and both paintings to be available for public viewing on Tuesday.
Former President Barack Obama’s official portrait was just 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 https://t.co/1w4arKRmcb pic.twitter.com/SSns8bFb95
— CNN (@CNN) February 12, 2018
The portraits represent an intriguing and noteworthy milestone in the tradition of former presidents having their portraits go up in the institution. Both Barack and Michelle chose African American artists to complete the official portraits of them, the first former president and first lady to do so.
Kehinde Wiley, described by CNN as “a Yale University-trained painter famous for his depiction of African-Americans posed in the style of Old Master paintings,” completed the official portrait of the president, while fellow African American Amy Sherald completed the official portrait of the former first lady.
Besides joking about being unable to convince Wiley to paint him with less gray hair and smaller ears, the former president commented of the artist:
‘What I was always struck by when I saw his portraits was the degree to which they challenged our ideas of power and privilege.’
Michelle was similarly lauding in her comments about Sherald, commenting:
‘[“Girls and girls of color”] will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the walls of this great American institution… And I know the kind of impact that will have on their lives because I was one of those girls.’
Sherald’s work is described by CNN as “less about realism in composition and more about shape and color,” with the artist apparently often taking to depicting African American skin tones as shades of gray in an attempt to buck expectations of color, as she did in the case of Michelle’s painting.
Check out a video report on the paintings below.
The Obamas have made a selection of public appearances since leaving D.C. last year; Michelle was a recent guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Barack was a relatively recent guest on a new Netflix show from late night icon David Letterman.
The poise and popularity of the former president and first lady stands in stark contrast to the glaring lack of such attributes defining the current presidential administration.
Obama left office with an approval rating vastly above anything that Trump has so far been able to dream of achieving.
No matter how many Republicans sought to claim he was the devil incarnate or something, policy moves undertaken by President Obama like the Affordable Care Act have enjoyed vast support from the population, since they proved to actually be helpful for people.
Trump learned this the hard way when trying to completely repeal the ACA last year.
Featured Image via JIM YOUNG/AFP/Getty Images