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I found it refreshing this morning to read J.E. Dyer’s defense of the official portrait of Michelle Obama against the many nitpickers who found something to complain about.
I was actually prepared to offer up a defense of the portrait of her husband as well, or at least of Kehinde Wiley, the artist who painted it. I had seen all the scuttlebutt surrounding his fondness for painting black women holding a sword in one hand and a a severed head in the other.
And/or - Dozen - Books - Art - Life
Having co-authored and/or edited some dozen books on fine art in a previous life, I assumed the subject of the work might be the biblical story of Judith luring to her tent and beheading Holofernes, King Nebuchadnezzar’s Jew-murdering general. This subject matter has been grist for numerous paintings throughout the history of western art.
Sure enough, when I dug a little further I determined that that was indeed the topic of Wiley’s painting. I also uncovered this:
Kehinde - Wiley - Portraits - Likes - John
[Kehinde Wiley is] known for taking instantly recognisable portraits by the likes of John Singer Sargent or Jacques-Louis David and reimagining them to reflect contemporary African American icons.
Then I noticed a detail that initially escaped my attention. As this tweet observes, in Wiley’s take on the biblical story, the head of Holofernes is that of a white woman.
Jo'Nella - Queen - Poet - Activist - Analysis
Jo’Nella Queen, a self-styled poet and activist, offers this analysis of the painting:
This art piece “Judith Beheading Holofernes,” 2012, Kehinde Wiley, places Women of Color, specifically a Black woman in a position of power (and majesty). This is so important because of the racism and sexism that Women of Color have historically and continue to face [sic] today. (Not to mention other...
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