Former President Barack Obama’s official post-presidency portrait was recently unveiled to the public prior to being installed in the Smithsonian’s National Gallery of Portraits with the official paintings of other former presidents.
While there was plenty of praise from Obamaphiles for the portrait, as well as the one for former first lady Michelle Obama, there was also quite a bit of criticism as well, both for the actual painting itself as well as for the artist chosen by Obama to paint it.
One rather odd criticism that has emerged about the artist, Kehinde Wiley, was his penchant for adding depictions of sperm cells to his paintings, according to The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Wiley’s style of portraiture essentially involves taking classic art masterpieces and adapting them to modern times by replacing the figure of nobility in a regal pose with that of a young, black urban youths, with the background changed into some sort of wild brocade-type pattern — which sometimes include faintly seen free-floating sperm upon closer inspection.
This was actually noted in 2015 when an art critic for the left-wing Village Voice named Jessica Dawson issued a harsh review for Wiley’s “pervy” and “predatory” paintings on display at a museum in Brooklyn.
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Dawson described how Wiley often found the young men to model for his at-times homo-erotic portraits on the streets, and wondered how it wasn’t “predatory” for him to lure them back to his studio with promises of power and glamor.
As for the pervy-ness, Dawson took note of the prevalence of sperm in Wiley’s paintings, and noted that one portrait entitled “Napolean Leading the Army Over the Alps” — which featured a camo-clad, Timberland-boot-wearing young black man in place of Napolean — could also be subtitled “Through a Light Ejaculate Mist” due to the plethora of sperm not so subtly hidden in the background.
Another example would be a painting titled “St. Andrew,” which features a young, black male grinding his crotch on a wooden cross, again with small images of sperm cells painted throughout the green and black brocaded background
It was even noted that some of the gilded frames within which the paintings were mounted featured egg-like orbs covered in sperm in the corners.
Do you think the artist deliberately added an image of sperm to Obama’s official portrait?
Let’s not tell them what’s in the background of Mr. Wiley’s “Napolean Leading the Army over the Alps” …
or that you can see the humorous visual reference in the lobby of the Brooklyn Museum. pic.twitter.com/zuw7fXCLf2
— leroy’s dog (@leroys_dog) February 12, 2018
So how does this tie into former President Obama’s official portrait? Well, it appears to some as though Wiley may have kept with his odd tradition even as he painted the ex-president, and appears to have hidden at least one giant sperm cell right in plain site.
News Media Watchdog reported that some people had zoomed in close on the portrait and taken note of what at first glance looks to be a large vein on the side of Obama’s head near the hairline, a vein that can indeed be seen in actual pictures of the former president, though not nearly as pronounced.
However, at the lower end of the vein in the painting there is a rather prominent bulge, which certainly makes the whole thing look like a giant sperm cell on the side of Obama’s forehead.
To be sure, the bulge on the side of Obama’s head could in fact simply be a vein, but given Wiley’s predilection for hiding images of sperm cells in many of his paintings, it does seem like more than a coincidence that that is what the vein seems to resemble.
All of that said, we really cannot imply or infer anything from this possibility that the artist specifically chosen by Obama to paint his official portrait decided to add an image of a sperm cell to the presidential painting.
What we will say is that, if the supposed forehead vein really is a deliberate image of a sperm cell, then it is quite embarrassing and indicative of what can happen when race and social justice are the deciding factor more so than skilled professionalism.
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