The depictions of President Barack and Former First Lady Michelle Obama are getting a lot of love but also harsh criticism since Monday’s unveiling.
Tuesday was the first time the public saw the history-making images in person.
Inside of the exhibit focusing on America’s Presidents, you will find George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and a lot of other portraits of presidents that look somewhat the same.
“You see the old pattern of dull and dark and gray and browns,” Lyric Prince, lives in Arlington, said.
However, the art installation of President Obama offers contrast.
“It’s a completely different portrait from the portraits that surround us in this gallery,” Taina Caragol, with the National Portrait Gallery, said.
Artist Kehinde Wiley created the portrait of President Obama.
The nation’s first black president was not depicted in common presidential spaces, but instead, he is almost engulfed by nature.
“The more I look at it, the more I love it. So, I had to just come see it in person,” Dominic Jones told WUSA9.
The artist told President Obama’s life journey through flowers by using the jasmine to point to his birthplace in Hawaii.
Wiley also used a flower to represent Chicago where President Obama got his start in politics.
“And then you have the African blue lilies that point to the late father of President Barack Obama from Kenya,” Caragol explained.
The former president and first lady made history by -- not only posing for the portraits – but by choosing the black artists who made them. This was a first for the National Portrait Gallery.
“Both of these artists want people to — especially young people to look at their work and see themselves in it,” Dorothy Moss, with the National Portrait Gallery, said.
Artist Amy Sherald made subtle but bold statements in her piece with Michelle Obama.
Sherald pained the former first lady in grayscale which was inspired by black and white pictures of African Americans from back in the day.
A closer look at the dress Mrs. Obama wore showed it uses patterns reminiscent of quilts handcrafted by black women.
“It takes a departure from how it should look,” Prince said. “It’s not really a representation of her. I think it’s a representation of all black women.”
The new art injects color into the visual timeline of presidents and first lady’s and adds to the shift in diversity at the National Portrait Gallery.
Some of the other changes at the National Portrait Gallery include bilingual descriptions, interactive touchscreens, and a collection honoring everyday people who helped build this country – such as enslaved people and immigrant workers.