Many Americans heard of Kehinde Wiley, the artist behind the official portrait of President Barack Obama, for the first time when his latest work was unveiled Monday at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery.
The official portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama, created by Baltimore-based Amy Sherald, was also unveiled at the museum on Monday.
Wiley’s work, titled “Judith and Holofernes,” shows a black woman holding a sword in one hand and the disembodied head of a white woman in the other.
Her pose is a riff on classical depictions by Caravaggio and Gentileschi, of the biblical story of Judith beheading Holofernes.
Wiley’s website describes the collection as ” a celebration of black women, creating a rightful place for them within art history, which has to date been an almost exclusively white domain.”