When 'art' intersects with white women's necks

Posted: Friday, February 16, 2018 | Chad Groening, | Pop Culture

A black conservative activist says it's hard to comprehend why former President Barack Obama commissioned a controversial artist for his portrait.

Kehinde Wiley's portrait of the former president will be added to the America's Presidents exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

But the unusual portrait of Obama isn't the main controversy – it's Wiley's habit of painting black women holding the severed heads of white women.

"It's sort of a play on the 'kill whitey' thing," he once told New York Magazine.

Stacy Washington, host of Urban Family Talk's "Stacy on the Right" program, says she is shocked that Obama picked an artist whose body of work includes such controversial artwork.

"How are you not ultimately incensed," asks Washington, "by the idea that this artist makes flowery wall paper, puts black women in dresses with their hair up like it's a formal event, and then in their hands he places a knife in one hand and a severed head of a white woman in the other?"

The fact-checking website Snopes confirms as "true" that Wiley has painted two such controversial portraits but points out they are only two from his large body of work. The same story also suggests that Wiley's work has never generated controversy until he made headlines for Obama's portrait. 

One can only imagine, Washington says, the outrage if a white artist had painted a white woman holding a black person's severed head. That double standard, she says, is "weapons grade" and hard to comprehend.

Regarding the portrait of Obama itself, Washington says it's an embarrassment and shameful. 

This post first appeared here on and was reprinted with permission.