Barack Obama is slowly making his way back into the public eye as a former President, and today he and wife Michelle attended to some key post-presidency duties: the unveiling of their official portraits at the Smithsonian Institute's National Portrait Gallery. It's tradition for former presidents and First Ladies to be immortalized on canvas in the museum, and proved that the history-making couple aren't done shaking things up in Washington.
According to CNN, Barack chose to have his portrait done by Kehinde Wiley, the first ever African-American artist to produce an official presidential portrait for the National Portrait Gallery. The portrait shows the former POTUS sitting on a wooden chair and staring straight ahead, while vibrant green leaves and colorful flowers flourish behind him. "How about that? That's pretty sharp," Barack reportedly said as he and Wiley uncovered the painting. Dan Zak, a reporter for The Washington Post, wrote on Twitter that, at the unveiling ceremony, Wiley spoke about "charting [Barack's] path on Earth through those plants." The flowers embedded among the leaves are species found in Illinois, Hawaii, and Kenya, three places fundamental to Barack's background.
Michelle also chose an African-American artist to execute her portrait. Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald painted Michelle, who looks confidently ahead in a gorgeous black and white gown, in front of a sky-blue background. In the portrait, though the background and Michelle's dress are done in bright colors, her skin is somewhat washed out, a purposeful choice by Sherald, who often paints darker skin tones in grayscale "as a way to take away the assigned 'color' of her subjects," according to CNN. After Michelle's portrait was unveiled, Barack reportedly expressed his gratitude for Sherald's powerful painting in the sweetest way. "Amy, I want to thank you for so spectacularly capturing the grace and beauty and intelligence and charm and hotness of the woman I love," he said.
The former First Lady, who pronounced herself "a little overwhelmed" by her portrait, spoke about the significance of the painting. "I'm also thinking about all the young people, particularly girls and girls of color, who in years ahead will come to this place, and they will look up and they will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the wall of this great American institution," she said, with tears in her eyes. "I know the kind of impact that will have on their lives because I was one of those girls. And when I think about those future generations and generations past, I think, again, wow. Wow. What an incredible journey we are on together in this country. We have come so far and, yes, as we see today, we still have a lot more work to do, but we have every reason to be hopeful and proud, and I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to stand alongside my husband and play a very small part in that history and in that future."
Many Twitter users took advantage of the Obamas' latest public appearance — and their amazing new portraits — to reminisce about the couple's groundbreaking tenure in the White House. "Monday morning joy as portraits of President and First Lady Obama are revealed by artists Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley. Reminds me to hope. #ObamaPortraits," Ava DuVernay tweeted. Chrissy Teigen also chimed in, captioning Barack's portrait "come back" and Michelle's "help us."