Gold Coast to showcase work of Obama portraitist on catalogue

Janelle Clausen
Portrait of Natasha Zamor, 2015, by Kehinde Wiley. (Photo courtesy of Sean Kelly)
Portrait of Natasha Zamor, 2015, by Kehinde Wiley. (Photo courtesy of Sean Kelly)

The work of President Barack Obama’s portraitist Kehinde Wiley has been showcased in museums from coast to coast, ranging from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

And now, after securing permission, the Gold Coast Arts Center will showcase “Portrait of Natasha Zamor,” one of his works from 2015, on the cover of its Fall 2018 catalogue of its classes and exhibits.

Regina Gil, the executive director of the Gold Coast Arts Center, said this will serve a dual purpose of promoting Wiley and the Great Neck Plaza-based center.

“Our exhibits showcase works of art that reflect contemporary society and societal issues, but that also carry on the traditions of great artists of the past,” Gil said. “Kehinde Wiley’s portraits are a superb example of brilliant technique put in the service of new themes and a very personal style, and that is why we consider Portrait of Natasha Zamor an ideal choice for our catalog cover.”

A Los Angeles native now based in New York, Wiley received an MFA from Yale University in 2001 and then became an artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem. His early portraits were based on photographs of young men in the streets of Harlem, but as his studio developed, Wiley would go international with his work.

Wiley said that often, when doing paintings, he often references High Renaissance and “classical European paintings of noblemen, royalty and aristocrats,” placing African Americans in positions of power once found in old portraits.

“His heroic paintings evoke a modern style instilling a unique and contemporary manner,” according to his website, “awakening complex issues that many would prefer remain mute.”

Wiley shifted to painting women in his ‘An Economy of Grace’ series “in order to come to terms with depictions of gender and the way it is featured” historically.

“Any consideration of male power in panting naturally includes the presence of women within that dialogue,” Wiley said in the frequently asked questions portion of his website. “‘An Economy of Grace’ is an investigation of the presence of women in painting, but in a broader sense, it is a investigation of the negotiation of power in image-making.”

Jude Amsel, the gallery curator at the Gold Coast Arts Center, said she loves his work and that “it’s pretty amazing” that the center forged a connection with such an artist.

“The fact we got permission to put it on our catalogue from him is amazing,” Amsel said.

About the author

Janelle Clausen

Janelle Clausen is a reporter with Blank Slate Media covering the Great Neck peninsula and Town of North Hempstead. She previously freelanced for the Amityville Record, Massapequa Post and the Babylon Beacon. When not reporting, the south shore native can...
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