When Barack Obama was first elected president back in 2008, many artists took to their particular medium to mark this historic occasion – the first African American president of the United States of America. We wanted to commemorate this momentous occasion as well. “The Picture is Only Half the Story” has toured around the country, been published in a book, and is now included in a magazine’s retrospective of Obama art. As President Obama starts his final year in office, we want to step back a moment and reflect a bit on the journey “The Picture is Only Half the Story”* has taken.
We had just started working on pieces that were made up of snippets of texts, so we thought we would try to make an Obama piece using this process. First we searched for texts and phrases that people could have said – people who saw Candidate Obama as a symbol of hope and change. As they were projecting their hopes and dreams onto this man, we thought to put those words and phrases onto his face. After all, we, the people, were creating a president. Once we stepped back from the face, we realized that there was something missing. What had Obama been telling us all this time throughout the campaign? We looked at each other and asked ourselves what was the most important thing Obama said to us, Kris and Deb, during this election cycle. We both said: Obama’s speech on race.
On March 18, 2008, Candidate Obama spoke in response to controversial remarks made by his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. You can read about this speech and watch the video by clicking here. While we couldn’t logistically place the entire speech onto the background, we made sure the words that left the greatest impression on us were there: long march, challenges, together, common hope, same direction.
We were honored when independent curator Carolyn Mazloomi chose to include us in her exhibit and book, Journey of Hope: Quilts Inspired by President Barack Obama.
How excited we were to see where “The Picture is Only Half the Story” traveled. A detail of our piece even served as the bookmark for the exhibit. We met amazing people during the run of this exhibition and through the publication of the book.
And if you think our heads were exploding when we saw the bookmark, we almost lost it when Carolyn Mazloomi sent us this photo of our piece flashing up on one of the big screens in Times Square. Hot diggity! We figured if we could make it there (in New York), then we could make it anywhere!
Now, if you think making it means getting published in Politico Magazine as among its favorite artworks depicting the 44th president, then we have made it! Please check out Politico Magazine‘s article called Obama, Art-ified: A tour through the unprecedented body of artwork depicting Barack Obama. (Click on #4 to see our piece.) We were humbled to be included in this amazing slideshow.
So how did Barack Obama’s candidacy, this speech, his presidency, and the making of “The Picture is Only Half the Story” impact our work? Well, we started a series called “The Language of Color” where we use colored pencils as sleek means to explore issues of race, which has come to occupy a focus of our recent work. And we’re not done. America is still striving to become that more perfect union. We’re trying to capture that journey. Here are some examples:
As I prepared this blog, I watched then Candidate Obama’s speech again. He has gotten a lot grayer, but his message of hope and change remains the same. And his call to talk about race is more important today than it was on that day eight years ago.
* “The Picture is Only Half the Story” is available for purchase ($2,044). Please contact us using the contact form.