Kehinde Wiley was born in 1977 in south central Los Angeles to a Nigerian father and African-American mother, but didn’t grow up with his father at home. At the age of 20, however, he traveled to Nigeria to find him.
“After several weeks in Lagos, he found his dad, who welcomed him. But — like any Telemachus or Luke Skywalker — Wiley, who was born in Los Angeles and lives in Brooklyn, was also looking for a sense of belonging, and his homecoming was not as seamless as he had dreamed,” the New Yorker reported in 2008. “Still, the place has a pull on him. In December, he attended his half sister’s wedding, in the city of Uyo. He brought his mother, who had not seen his father in thirty years.”
Wiley was hand-picked by the Obamas, Wiley is second ever African-American to be commissioned by the gallery to paint the official portraits. The Obamas looked at the portfolios of more than two dozen artists before deciding on Wiley.
He’s best known for creating naturalistic paintings featuring African-Americans in heroic poses.
Wiley is known for taking the saints, prophets and heroes of Old Master paintings and replacing them with black men and women dressed in hip-hop or African attire.
Wiley in an interview with CNN said “What I choose to do is to take people who happen to look like me — black and brown people all over the world, increasingly — and to allow them to occupy that field of power,”.