Black men in the USA are generally viewed with suspicion as they are associated with fear and violence. Here is a portrait painter, who has taken it upon himself to change this view through his vibrant and colorful paintings of black people. Meet Kehinde Wiley, an Afro-American portrait painter, who aims to change this general perception about black people in America.
Wiley’s vibrant and sensitive portrayal of black folk from all walks of life and of all ages is certainly an art connoisseur’s delight, what with his naturalistic and brightly colored portraits, many with flowery backgrounds. He manages to turn around the tradition of painting white people with other white people by painting black folk. For instance, his painting ‘Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps, is along the lines of Jacques-Louis David’s famous ‘Bonaparte Crossing the Grand Saint-Bernard Pass’. He depicts Napoleon as an Afro-American in army fatigues.
His other works include black nude females that are traditionally white. To this end, he repositions black male bodies as objects of desire and eroticism, and not of fear and violence. His paintings also promote gay black men who are victimized by society.
Born in Los Angles in California, USA, Wiley is currently based in New York City, USA. His journey to becoming a painter was not smooth. He was not only poor but a queer too. Probably it was this identity that pushed him into becoming a passionate artist, who made it his life’s ambition to paint other marginalized individuals.
Paintings by Artists Kehinde Wiley
Wiley takes his inspiration from photographs of young men that he encounters on the street. He has depicted black men from Harlem’s 125th Street and the South-Central Los Angeles, where he was born. His paintings are a true depiction of what queer black art can look like in America.
For a painter of his stature, recognition and honors are bound to follow. Wiley is a recipient of the Artist of the Year Award from the New York City Art Teachers Association/ United Federation of Teachers, as also as Canteen Magazine’s Artist of the Year Award. In 2018, he was included in Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. He was even commissioned by the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery to paint a portrait of the former US president Barack Obama. The gallery showcases all previous American presidents.
Wiley’s works can be seen on art websites and he enjoys a following of over 550,000 viewers on Instagram alone.
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