Save this content for laterSave this content on your device for later, even while offline Sign in with FacebookSign in with your Facebook account Close

Obama jokes he failed to get artist to give him smaller ears

By: ASHRAF KHALIL, Associated Press
February 12, 2018 Updated: February 12, 2018 at 3:36 pm
0

WASHINGTON — When Barack Obama speaks, people listen. At least they did when he was in the White House. But that kind of authority didn't hold much sway when it came time for his presidential portrait.

At a ceremony Monday to unveil portraits of him and former first lady Michelle Obama, the former president said artist Kehinde Wiley cheerfully ignored almost all of his suggestions.

"He listened very thoughtfully to what I had to say before doing exactly what he always intended to do," he said. "I tried to negotiate less gray hair but Kehinde's artistic integrity would not allow it. I tried to negotiate smaller ears and struck out on that as well."

The final product depicts Obama sitting in a straight-backed chair, leaning forward and looking serious while surrounded by greenery and flowers. Michelle Obama's portrait, painted by Amy Sherald, shows her in a black and white dress looking thoughtful with her hand on her chin.

Both artists were personally chosen by the Obamas.

Obama Portrait
Former President Barack Obama, left, speaks at the unveiling ceremony for the Obama's official portraits at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, in Washington. Obama's portrait was painted by Artist Kehinde Wiley. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) 

The portraits will now hang in the National Portrait Gallery, which is part of the Smithsonian group of museums. The gallery has a complete collection of presidential portraits. A different set of portraits of the former first couple will eventually hang in the White House.

"I am humbled, I am honored, I am proud," Michelle Obama said. "Young people, particularly girls and girls of color, in future years they will come to this place and see someone who looks like them hanging on the walls of this incredible institution."

Barack Obama spoke of his choice of Wiley, saying the two men shared multiple parallels in their upbringing; both had African fathers who were largely absent from their lives and American mothers who raised them.

The former president drew multiple laughs from the audience for his remarks, starting out by praising Sherald for capturing, "the grace and beauty and charm and hotness of the woman that I love."

Obama said he found the process of sitting for the portrait to be a frustrating experience.

"I don't like posing. I get impatient and start looking at my watch," he said, "but working with Kehinde was a great joy."

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Incognito Mode Your browser is in Incognito mode

You vanished!

We welcome you to read all of our stories by signing into your account. If you don't have a subscription, please subscribe today for daily award winning journalism.

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

It appears that you value local journalism. Thank you.

Subscribe today for unlimited digital access with 50% fewer ads for a faster browsing experience.

Already a Subscriber? LOGIN HERE

Wake up with today's top stories in your inbox

Wake up with today's top stories in your inbox

or
Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?
 
This is your last FREE article for the month
This is your last FREE article for the month

Subscribe now and enjoy Unlimited Digital Access to Gazette.com

Only 99 cents for Unlimited Digital Access for 1 month
Then $2.31/week, billed monthly, cancel anytime
Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?

 
You have reached your article limit for the month
You have reached your article limit for the month

We hope that you've enjoyed your complimentary access to Gazette.com

Only 99 cents for Unlimited Digital Access for 1 month
Then $2.31/week, billed monthly, cancel anytime
Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?
 

Exclusive Subscriber Content

You read The Gazette because you care about your community and the local stories you can't find anywhere else.

Only 99 cents for Unlimited Digital Access for 1 month
Then $2.31/week, billed monthly, cancel anytime
Already a print subscriber? Get Access | Already a digital subscriber? Log In
 
articles remaining
×
Thank you for your interest in local journalism.
Gain unlimited access, 50% fewer ads and a faster browsing experience.