Art Info reports that the New Museum has added an Elizabeth Peyton portrait of future first lady Michelle Obama to an exhibition of the artist’s work. The painting, titled “Michelle and Sasha Obama Listening to Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention August 2008,” was hung yesterday on the museum’s fourth floor.
This is a funny gesture from Peyton, whose brilliantly colored, limply posed portraits of Kurt Cobain, King Ludwig II of Bavaria, and other pale, etiolated dandies, are about as far removed from the political and social pressures of American democracy as possible. Try, for a moment, to imagine a Peyton working the line at a campaign rally in Indiana.
So what gives? Peyton is probably a democrat, and deliriously excited. In that case: a suggestion. Instead of painting Michelle Obama, whose toughness, politely put, wilts the soft politics of contemporary art, Peyton could try her hand at capturing the President-Elect’s likeness. Tall, lanky, tree-sapling thin, our nation’s 44th president is a natural fit for Peyton. The mind wanders, not-entirely-seriously, with thoughts of an official portrait sitting in the oval office: streaks of red, white, blue, and light brown; an ivory flash of smile; something of the man’s liquid grace.
In our nation’s capital, an even stranger pairing between art and politics. It appears that Frank Gehry is in the running to design the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington. What will that look like?