Did Artist Give Obama an Extra Finger to Go with His Freakishly Large Hands?

The newly released portrait of former President Barack Obama is raising some troubling questions, not the least of which is “WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?” The portrait was unveiled Monday at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.


Let’s begin with the odd background of the painting, which looks like a cross between a Caribbean street mural and Fenway Park’s Big Green Monster. It’s supposed to be some sort of homage to Obama’s roots in Chicago, Kenya, and Hawaii or something:

Official portrait of Barack Obama

President Barack Obama official portrait (Image via Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery)

To me, it kinda looks like poison sumac, which has some itchy implications for the former POTUS. You be the judge:

(Image via Flickr)

But after you get past the shock of that garish background, you realize there are some other oddities in this portrait, created by left-wing artist Kehinde Wiley.

For instance, what’s up with that chair? There appears to be no arm on Obama’s left side, so it looks like he’s precariously perched with his left cheek hanging dangerously near the edge of the chair. Did the guy just run out of brown paint? Did he simply forget to add it? Was he smoking those garish leaves in the studio while painting Obama? So many questions, so few answers.

But let’s forget all that for now and focus on the freakishly large hands. Those paws nearly span the distance from his wrist to his elbow. Stop reading this for just a second and hold your hand up to your forearm. Is yours anywhere close to the length of your forearm? No? Mine either, and neither is anyone else’s except maybe Andre the Giant. Was the artist making a statement about Trump’s notoriously small digits? We’ll probably never know, but we can do the math. To punctuate his point, it seems Wiley may have given Obama an extra finger. Look closely and you tell me:


Twitter was a little freaked out by the whole thing:

PJM’s Stephen Green described it this way:

The portrait is OK, I guess, other than the unusually large hands. Oh, and the chair is out of perspective with the body. Either that or it’s missing an arm, and Obama’s left butt cheek is hanging off the side. I’m sure it’s on purpose, but I’m not sure what the point is. If the artist, Kehinde Wiley, is trying to evoke a postmodern Naïve art style, maybe he considers it a success.

But that background — and I don’t care what it’s supposed represent — evokes the very worst of ’70s aging hippie strip mall art class style.

(PJM’s Megan Fox pointed out earlier today that Wiley is known for paintings of black people beheading white people, which raises a whole slew of additional questions.)

But perhaps the most disturbing thing about this debacle is the radical departure from past presidential portraits:


Posted by Dana Loesch on Monday, February 12, 2018

Also, for comparison, see former President George W. Bush’s’ portrait:


The Obama’s seemed to like it at the time:

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host a ceremony on the occasion of the unveiling of the official portraits of former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush, in the East Room of the White House, May 31, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

I get that “art” (or what passes for it these days) is subjective. One man’s paradise is another man’s garbage dump and all that. But there’s something to be said for tradition — not to mention having some objective standards in portraiture (the correct number of fingers, being just one example). Obama’s portrait is just objectively hideous and doesn’t belong amongst the dignified portraits of his predecessors.

Follow me on Twitter: @pbolyard


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