The national spotlight shined brightly Monday on Kehinde Wiley as the artist who painted Barack Obama’s portrait for the National Portrait Gallery unveiled his work (to a mixed reception, to say the least).

Still, a lot of people are asking questions about earlier works by Wiley — in particular, a pair of paintings showing black women holding swords in one hand and the decapitated heads of white women in the other.

A large part of Wiley’s style is to paint contemporary black figures into historical portraits; take, for example, his portrait that swaps out Peter Paul Rubens’ rendition of King Philip II on horseback for Michael Jackson.

What a lot of people are trying to figure out Monday is why Wiley’s paintings of Judith beheading Assyrian general Holofernes swap in women’s heads for Holofernes’s head — not the most sensitive subject matter in this #MeToo era.

The Daily Caller’s Amber Randall looked into it, and found an explanation in a profile Wiley had done with New York magazine, where he explained, “It’s sort of a play on the ‘kill whitey’ thing.”


But someone does have a question for The New York Times’ arts editor.

Here’s a hot take for Triggered White Twitter, if that describes you.

That’s a pretty hot take … we’re gonna let it cool awhile while you tackle it in the comments. But back to that New York profile:

Which brings us back to the lady with the severed head. Like most Wiley paintings, this one has a backstory: Her name is Triesha Lowe, Wiley explains. She’s a stay-at-home mom whom Wiley found at the Fulton Mall. Her pose is a riff on classical depictions by Caravaggio and Gentileschi, of the biblical story of Judith beheading Holofernes. And the severed head? “She’s one of my assistants.”

OK, that sort of makes sense … but why women both times? Blame the patriarchy?


D’OH! Science writer paints Obama portrait critics as racist — and busts HERSELF for racism