Obama portrait artist Kehinde Wiley once painted black women decapitating white women

With his rendering of President Barack Obama, Kehinde Wiley became the first African American to ever paint an official presidential portrait, but the new-found fame has also drawn attention to some of the artist’s more boundary-pushing past works.

Two paintings from 2012, depicting the Biblical story of Judith beheading the Assyrian general Holofernes, began making the rounds online on Monday. In Wiley’s rendering, Judith is depicted as a black woman and Holofernes as a white woman.

Fans of the Obama portrait will recognize Wiley’s distinct colors and prominent use of flora and fauna backgrounds.

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Barack and Michelle Obama unveil official portraits at the National Portrait Gallery
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Barack and Michelle Obama unveil official portraits at the National Portrait Gallery
Former U.S. President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama stand with their portraits during an unveiling ceremony at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Artist Amy Sherald (R) and former first lady Michelle Obama participate in the unveiling of Mrs. Obama's portrait at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Artist Kehinde Wiley (L) and former U.S. President Barack Obama participate in the unveiling of Obama's portrait at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Artist Amy Sherald (R) and former first lady Michelle Obama participate in the unveiling of Mrs. Obama's portrait at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama arrives for the unveiling of his portrait and that of former first lady Michelle Obama at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama stands between painted portraits of himself and that of former first lady Michelle Obama during an unveiling ceremony at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama sits with former first lady Michelle Obama prior to the the unveiling of their portraits at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama holds hands with former first lady Michelle Obama prior to the the unveiling of their portraits at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama stands between painted portraits of himself and that of former first lady Michelle Obama during an unveiling ceremony at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Artists Amy Sherald (L) and Kehinde Wiley (R) gather with actor Tom Hanks prior to the unveiling of their painted portraits of former U.S. President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama sits with former first lady Michelle Obama applaud during the unveiling of their portraits at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama sits with former first lady Michelle Obama prior to the the unveiling of their portraits at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama react to the crowd during an unveiling ceremony for their portraits at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama greets artist Kehinde Wiley during the unveiling of his portrait at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during the unveiling of his portrait at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 12: Artist Kehinde Wiley, and Amy Sherald attend their official portrait unveiling of former U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama during a ceremony at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, on February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. The portraits were commissioned by the Gallery, for Kehinde Wiley to create President Obama's portrait, and Amy Sherald that of Michelle Obama. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 12: Former U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, (L), greets Craig Robinson, during the official portrait unveiling of former U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, on February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. The portraits were commissioned by the Gallery, for Kehinde Wiley to create President Obama's portrait, and Amy Sherald that of Michelle Obama. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 12: Artist Amy Sherald is introduced during the official portrait unveiling of former U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama during a ceremony at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, on February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. The portraits were commissioned by the Gallery, for Kehinde Wiley to create President Obama's portrait, and Amy Sherald that of Michelle Obama. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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“Judith and Holofernes is from Wiley’s most recent body of work and his first series of paintings to feature female subjects,” a 2012 explanation of the work from the North Carolina Museum of Art foundation reads. “Wiley translates this image of a courageous, powerful woman into a contemporary version that resonates with fury and righteousness.”

In a New York Magazine piece also from 2012, Wiley explained that the impetus for the work came from the renditions of the Biblical scene by Renaissance artists Caravaggio and Gentileschi.

In keeping with his long-running style, Wiley depicted Judith as a powerful black woman. His reasons for keeping Holofernes white and changing the general into a woman remain less clear.

A representative for the artist did not immediately respond to request for comment from TheWrap.

Read original story Obama Portrait Artist Kehinde Wiley Once Painted Black Women Decapitating White Women At TheWrap

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