The artist who painted former President Obama’s portrait, which will be added to the America’s Presidents exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., previously painted images of black women holding severed heads of white women.
There are at least two instances where Kehinde Wiley painted portraits of black women holding a knife in one hand and the decapitated head of a white woman in the other.
Both portraits also juxtapose the harsh images of the women by featuring a busy floral background, such as the leaf-filled background of Obama’s portrait.
In an interview with New York Magazine, Wiley said one of the controversial portraits was based on a stay-at-home mom he found at the mall and the woman’s head she was holding was based on one of his assistants.
“It’s sort of a play on the ‘kill whitey’ thing,” Wiley told NYMag.
Both Barack and Michelle Obama’s portraits, which were revealed on Monday, have received widespread public criticism.
Barack’s portrait was criticized for the unconventional foliage background, and Michelle’s for the muted color scheme and the general dissimilarity between the former first lady and her portrait.