People seem to be misunderstanding the earlier work of Kehinde Wiley, the artist chosen to paint ex-President Obama's official portrait. These earlier paintings show Black women beheading White women (see above). Many are seeing these works as evidence of anti-White race hatred. Although that's clearly there, there are also other elements, some of which are quite surprising.

The important point to bear in mind is that these paintings are portraits of Black women that are designed to show their subjects at their best. But the problem, which the artist implicitly admits, is that Black women can't be "the best" if there is a white woman around.

An Ofili, authentically African.
He could, of course, simply try to avoid a direct comparison of Black and White women; and this might be valid if he stuck to an authentic mode of Black or African expression, say like the work of Chris Ofili.

However, Wiley's style—petty realism with wallpaper trimmings—is clearly a pastiche of White art, which by its very nature is infused or "haunted" by White figures and their aesthetics. Placing Black figures within such style can't fail to evoke contrasts, calling attention to how his Black subjects measure up to the White aesthetic.

To achieve his goal of beautifying his Black subjects within this context, the artist thus feels compelled to symbolically "pull down" the beauty that he feels overshadowing his subjects, that of the White woman. He does this by depicting the decapitation of a White woman in each painting.

By doing this, however, he is unwittingly revealing his own lack of faith in "Black beauty" within the context of his art, as well as his own aesthetic inferiority complex. He is being "racist," not only against his own group's authentic artistic expression, but also against his own race. In short, he is declaring that Black beauty can only ever equal or surpass White beauty through extreme, radical, and even genocidal "affirmative action."

That is a lot of dangerous and unhealthy psychological baggage right there! But, in another sense, whet better artist could be found to paint the official portrait of America's most racially problematic President than this conflicted, hateful, and self-loathing artistic dilettante? Finally, the artist's own twisted psychology is the best portrait of his subject.

The aesthetics of a compost heap? 

This essay first appeared as a series of tweets on Twitter.


  1. He's got a Norman Rockwell thing going on only without the good stuff.

  2. It's garbage plain and simple--it looks like something a fairly talented 11 year old would do.

  3. The real question is why aren't whites demanding he stop appropriating their culture? He's using every single western traditional form and in some cases brutally copying images from euro artists works. It's a kind of "Hamilton" with paint. But, white elites being what they are love it. Oy vey.



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