The artists painting the Obamas post-presidency portraits are incredible.

After each presidency, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and the White House commission portraits of the former commander in chief and first lady.

Prints of the portraits are then given to the gallery and White House.

This year, of course, it's the Obamas' turn.


Photo by Yui Mok/Getty Images.

On Oct. 13, the Smithsonian announced that artists had been selected to paint the 44th president and first lady in portraits set to be unveiled in early 2018.

Kehinde Wiley, who will paint Barack Obama, and Amy Sherald, who will paint Michelle Obama, are the first black artists to paint a president and first lady for the occasion.

Kehinde Wiley. Photo by Tony Powell, courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

Amy Sherald. Photo by Paul Morigi, 2016/AP Images for National Portrait Gallery.

Let's start with Wiley.

It might seem obvious, given he won over Mr. Obama, but it can't be stressed enough: Wiley is very, very good at what he does.

Another work in progress. #equestrian #laborday #deadline

A post shared by Kehinde Wiley (@kehindewiley) on

Like, mind-blowingly talented.

Portrait of Natasha Zamor, 2015 Oil on canvas 72 x 60 in

A post shared by Kehinde Wiley (@kehindewiley) on

Wiley isn't just a terrific artist either. He's a very fitting choice by the first black president.

Wiley is a standout in the art world for his vibrant depictions of black life and culture.

"Wiley’s signature portraits of everyday men and women riff on specific paintings by Old Masters, replacing the European aristocrats depicted in those paintings with contemporary black subjects, drawing attention to the absence of African-Americans from historical and cultural narratives," the Brooklyn Museum once described his work.

As Wiley explained to HuffPost:

"Many people see my early work simply as portraits of black and brown people. Really, it’s an investigation of how we see those people and how they have been perceived over time. The performance of black American identity feels very different from actually living in a black body. There’s a dissonance between inside and outside.”

Wiley is also openly gay, a part of his identity that he often reflects in his work.

The former president's choice to select an openly gay artist is meaningful — but not necessarily surprising.

Ethiopian Jews in Tel Aviv. Alios Itzhak, 2011 Oil and gold enamel on canvas 96 x 72 in @thejewishmuseum

A post shared by Kehinde Wiley (@kehindewiley) on

Obama was the first sitting president to embrace same-sex marriage and led the country toward unprecedented progress on LGBTQ rights throughout his tenure in office.

All in all, it seems like Wiley is the perfect fit for the job.

Work in progress. Oil study on linen for a Nigeria series of portraits. 📸 @bradogbonna

A post shared by Kehinde Wiley (@kehindewiley) on

Sherald, too, is a quickly rising star in the art realm.

Like her husband, Mrs. Obama handpicked the Baltimore-based artist, whose work predominantly focuses on challenging stereotypes that confine African-Americans and explores black identity.

“We get the same stories of who we are ― stories filled with pain, oppression, and struggle,” Sherald explained to Huffington Post of her work.

“But there are other sides to black lives that are not often represented. I’m painting these people.”

A post shared by Amy Sherald (@asherald) on

Sherald’s oil painting “Miss Everything (Unsuppressed Deliverance)” won first place in the National Portrait Gallery’s 2016 Outwin Boochever Competition.

Her work, seen below, rose to the top out of more than 2,500 entries, the Smithsonian noted.

Photo by Frances and Burton Reifler; oil painting by Amy Sherald.

Having two black artists paint the first black couple in the White House is just as huge as it seems.

Given the deep-seated racism captured in American art throughout the centuries — where people of color were often solely depicted as slaves or exotic novelties created by white artists — Wiley and Sherald are helping to break artistic and political barriers that have stood in place since our country's founding.

“Both [Wiley and Sherald] have achieved enormous success as artists," Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said in a statement. "But even more, they make art that reflects the power and potential of portraiture in the 21st century."

Who else can't wait to see these portraits next year?

Pexels / Julia M Cameron
True

In the last 20 years, the internet has become almost as essential as water or air. Every day, many of us wake up and check it for the news, sports, work, and social media. We log on from our phones, our computers, even our watches. It's a luxury so often taken for granted. With the COVID-19 pandemic, as many now work from home and children are going to school online, home access is a more critical service than ever before.

On the flip side, some 3.6 billion people live without affordable access to the internet. This digital divide — which has only widened over the past 20 years — has worsened wealth inequality within countries, divided developed and developing economies and intensified the global gender gap. It has allowed new billionaires to rise, and contributed to keeping billions of others in poverty.

In the US, lack of internet access at home prevents nearly one in five teens from finishing their homework. One third of households with school-age children and income below $30,000 don't have internet in their homes, with Black and Hispanic households particularly affected.

The United Nations is working to highlight the costs of the digital divide and to rapidly close it. In September 2019, for example, the UN's International Telecommunication Union and UNICEF launched Giga, an initiative aimed at connecting every school and every child to the internet by 2030.

Closing digital inequity gaps also remains a top priority for the UN Secretary-General. His office recently released a new Roadmap for Digital Cooperation. The UN Foundation has been supporting both this work, and the High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation co-chaired by Melinda Gates and Jack Ma, which made a series of recommendations to ensure all people are connected, respected, and protected in the digital age. Civil society, technologists and communications companies, such as Verizon, played a critical role in informing those consultations. In addition, the UN Foundation houses the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL), which advances digital inclusion through streamlining technology, unlocking markets and accelerating digitally enabled services as it works to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Keep Reading Show less

We Americans are an interesting bunch. We cherish our independence. We love our rugged individualism. Despite having pride in our system of government, we really don't like government telling us what to do.

Since rebellion is literally how we were founded, it's sort of baked into our national identity. But it doesn't always serve us well. Especially when we find ourselves in a global pandemic.

Individualism—at least the "I do what I want, when I want" idea—is the antithesis of what is needed to keep contagious disease under control. More than anything in my memory, the coronavirus pandemic has tested our nation's ability to put up a united front, and so far we are failing miserably.

I hear a lot of the same complaints from people who decry government mandates to wear a mask or governors' stay-at-home orders. We don't need a nanny state telling us what we can and can't do! This is tyranny! This is dictatorship! What ever happened to personal responsibility?

I actually have the same question. What did happen to personal responsibility?

Keep Reading Show less
True

This year, we've all experienced a little more stress and anxiety. This is especially true for youth facing homelessness, like Megan and Lionel. Enter Covenant House, an international organization that helps transform and save the lives of more than a million homeless, runaway, and trafficked young people.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is Delivering Smiles this holiday season by donating essential items and fulfilling AmazonSmile Charity Lists for organizations, like Covenant House, that have been impacted this year more than ever. Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a charity of your choice or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your selected charity.

Sometimes it seems like social media is too full of trolls and misinformation to justify its continued existence, but then something comes along that makes it all worth it.

Apparently, a song many of us have never heard of shot to the top of the charts in Italy in 1972 for the most intriguing reason. The song, written and performed by Adriano Celentano and is called "Prisencolinensinainciusol" which means...well, nothing. It's gibberish. In fact, the entire song is nonsense lyrics made to sound like English, and oddly, it does.

Occasionally, you can hear what sounds like a real word or phrase here and there—"eyes" and "color balls died" and "alright" a few times, for example—but it mostly just sounds like English without actually being English. It's like an auditory illusion and it does some super trippy things to your brain to listen to it.

Plus the video someone shared to go with it is fantastic. It's gone crazy viral because how could it not.

Keep Reading Show less
via Becker1999 / Flickr and Price and Sons

One of the major themes that arose out of World War II was how America's national character helped propel the Allies to victory over the Axis powers. Americans came together and sacrificed by either picking up a rifle and heading "over there" or on the homefront, they did whatever they could to help the war effort.

They bought bonds. They turned their businesses into factories. They rationed items such as meat, dairy, fruits, shortening, cars, firewood, and gasoline.

After living through nine months of COVID-19, one wonders whether today's Americans would be adult enough to make the sacrifices necessary to win such a war.

Keep Reading Show less