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Obama praises Michelle Obama’s “Grace” during portrait unveiling

Published : Wednesday, 14 February, 2018 at 12:00 AM Count : 402

While the official portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama unveiled Monday were applauded by the art world-for their intense visual impact as much as the choice of Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, artists who are both critical darlings and the first African-Americans to paint Presidential portraits-there was plenty for the Twitterati to snark about. "Amy, I want to thank you for so spectacularly the grace and beauty and intelligence and charm of the woman I love," he told the artist with a smile. The wall of greenery behind President Obama was an obvious opening for jokes about his history with marijuana and Sean Spicer hiding in the White House bushes. Criticism of Michelle Obama's portrait centered around two points.
But there's a reason for both of those criticisms: The dress is what says the most in this portrait, far more than the indistinct face.
There's a reason why Obama's face is the least interesting element here: The dress is as much a window into the former first lady's identity as her face, and possibly a more accurate one. The gown is a custom creation by Michelle Smith giving a nod to Obama's down-to-earth approachability and the vast sweep of the skirt lends drama and majesty befitting a first lady.
The colorful pattern speaks to the uniquely Obama-esque blend of patriotism and activism, tradition and modernity. Quilting is the essence of Americana; specifically, the pattern evokes the strikingly modernist quilts created by the isolated African-American community of Gee's Bend, Alabama, beginning in the late nineteenth century.
Created from recycled scraps of fabric, often in unheated shacks with no running water or electricity, the quilts are notable for their abstract, asymmetrical compositions, in stark contrast with the geometric regularity of traditional American quilts. Since being rediscovered in the 1960s, Gee's Bend quilts have been exhibited at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.    E News



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