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 · Obama Portraits Blend Paint and Politics, and Fact and Fiction Image Kehinde Wiley has set Barack Obama against greenery, with flowers that have symbolic meaning. Barack and Michelle Obama’s official portraits were revealed Monday morning at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, where they will hang along with portraits of every past US president.

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It’s a sign of the times, painted by hand. It seems the new portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama have nigh blown the roof off the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington.

This may stem from what Artnet. It turns out the first major portraits of the former president and first lady are breathtaking departures from the standard presidential paintings. The artists were chosen by the Obamas themselves.

The painting of Michelle Obama — by Amy Sherald — is dominated by an elegant white gown flowing toward the viewer. The former first lady is leaning back, receding into a pale background. Sherald is famous for meticulously painted portraits of black subjects — a cowboy wearing an American flag shirt, say, or two women wearing brilliantly colored bathing suits and holding hands.

The portrait is plenty dramatic. It gives, though, a cool cast and distant mien to a vibrant woman who was one of the warmest first ladies in American history. A different drama is presented by the painting of Barack Obama, a huge canvas by artist Kehinde Wiley. The ex-president, in a crisp suit, is seated in an elegant chair that floats amid a lush green tangle of leaves and vines.

Smith was among the designers invited to participated in the fashion education workshop for young people Obama hosted at the White House in October of that year. And she wore a black, off-the-shoulder Milly top when she posed for the October cover of Essence with her husband. But Obama and Smith share more than a first name. In November , Smith told Teen Vogue: Their generation, I had often thought, is where the real shift in equality and human rights will take place.

I had easily assumed their next ultimate role model would be a female president. All the rights I had sadly taken for granted. I had to do something. A longtime supporter of Planned Parenthood, Smith created a T-shirt to commemorate its th anniversary in , donating percent of the profits to the organization.

In office, however, he seemed distant by comparison. Indeed, in a widely-read essay for The Atlantic , the columnist James Fallows popularized Walter Mondale's view of Obama's seemingly unfair reputation as "aloof and diffident.

Elected with the highest ever number of votes cast for a US President, Obama clearly set new records for presidential popularity. But the burden of the office streams any responsible incumbent into a caste of one.

Whether assigned as "professorial" or "elitist"— both terms applied to Obama at one time or another -- it's lonely at the top. The President we see in Kehinde Wiley's portrait, unveiled today at the Smithsonian, is the lonely President. Superficially, within the frame of the image, things seem otherwise. The vibrant foliage behind him teems with life.

The flowers in the background, as Wiley explained at Monday morning's unveiling, represent the diverse communities from which Obama draws strength: But the President himself seems to inhabit a different universe from his fantasy backdrop.

Obama leans forward, brows furrowed as he appears to consider a new intellectual task at hand, his impeccable suit unblemished by the chaos of the wildlife around him. His dark chair seems to float among the leaves, unmoored from the geometry of the landscape.

Thanks for capturing wife's hotness. Thanks for capturing wife's hotness On this antique wooden chair, Barack Obama could have parachuted in from the Oval Office -- this isn't exactly garden furniture. The greenery of the backdrop shows us Obama's vitality and global connectedness -- but the man himself feels still stuck at his desk.

Wiley has won acclaim over a long career for reasserting the place of African American men in artistic frameworks usually reserved for European royalty. What better subject to crown that achievement than the first African-American president?

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Smith was among the designers invited to participated in the fashion education workshop for young people Obama hosted at the White House in October of that year.

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Tech Innovate Gadget Mission: In November , Smith told Teen Vogue:

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