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Saturday, February 17, 2018
WND, MRC Don't Understand Artistic Reinterpretations
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Where is pseudoymous WorldNetDaily arts writer "Marisa Martin" when you need her?

In an anonymously written Feb. 12 article, WND igorantly dumps on the artist who painted the official portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama:

While America is captivated by the newly released portraits of former President Obama and first lady Michelle, there’s something curious about Obama’s artist that’s raising eyebrows: He apparently enjoys painting portraits of black women holding the severed heads of white people.

Kehinde Wiley, a New York artist who paints primarily African-American subjects in heroic poses, was chosen by former President Obama to create a portrait of the 44th president to be displayed at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. Wiley’s portrait of Obama was unveiled Monday.

[...]

While America is captivated by the newly released portraits of former President Obama and first lady Michelle, there’s something curious about Obama’s artist that’s raising eyebrows: He apparently enjoys painting portraits of black women holding the severed heads of white people.

Kehinde Wiley, a New York artist who paints primarily African-American subjects in heroic poses, was chosen by former President Obama to create a portrait of the 44th president to be displayed at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. Wiley’s portrait of Obama was unveiled Monday.

Since white subjects rarely appear in Wiley’s work, it’s particularly curious that the painting depicts a black woman holding the head of a white man.

The Media Research Center located yet another painting by Wiley, “Judith beheading Holofernes,” that depicts a black woman with a severed head of her white victim. This 2013 painting was unveiled at the Brooklyn Museum.

WND did graciously concede that "Wiley has also painted many stunning portraits of African-American people without depicting severed heads."

What WND columnist Martin might have mentioned (if she isn't still too preoccupied with hating Obama and gay people, that is) is that the depiction of Judith behading Holofernes was a common subject in Renaissance and Baroque era art. Caravaggio, for instance, offered one notable take. But placing Wiley's art in context doesn't sell as well as freaking out over paintings of black woman severing someone's head. It's almost as if WND's latent fearmongering about black people suddenly decided to resurface.

The MRC reference in the WND article is to an MRCTV post by Brittany Hughes, who did admit that the Judith-Holofernes story "inspired a whole bunch of art during the Renaissance and Baroque periods." Then she added: "While the original story did involve a woman whacking off a guy’s head, Wiley’s choice to use a black woman holding a dead white person’s severed head is clearly a deliberate one." Well, duh.

But neither Hughes nor WND seemed interested, however, in finding out the context of that choice. Via Snopes, we can discover the artist's own words about his creation, which he considers a critique on contemporary street culture, masculine identity and the racism of art history:

Wiley takes obvious artistic license with the story—Holofernes is represented by a woman’s head, and Judith wears a gown designed by Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy. This new rendition can be interpreted on many different levels, including racial and gender identity and inequity, the representation of women throughout art history, and society’s ideals for beauty. In Wiley’s words, “I am painting women in order to come to terms with the depictions of gender within the context of art history. One has to broaden the conversation . . . This series of works attempts to reconcile the presence of black female stereotypes that surrounds their presence and/or absence in art history, and the notions of beauty, spectacle, and the ‘grand’ in painting.”

But, hey, why explain context when you can freak out about severed heads instead?


Posted by Terry K. at 1:24 AM EST

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