President Barack Obama's official president portrait was released today, and it sparked an odd conversation online, where some people believe the artist snuck a subtle image of a sperm cell into the painting.
Some are claiming that a sperm cell is clearly represented on the former president's forehead, where he has a prominent vein running vertically into his hairline. Users on an anonymous image board enhanced the shape for emphasis, and people on Twitter are going nuts over it.
A website called newsmediawatchdog.com compiled several other works by the artist, Kehinde Wiley, whose work often includes sperm-like imagery. This became the topic of conversation on Twitter as well, where people began interpreting all of Wiley's work looking for the symbolism.
Did y’all know Kehinde Wiley’s ornate frames & backgrounds often contain tiny images that symbolize sperm?— halleteri (@halleteri) December 28, 2017
In addition, a story on smarthistory.org makes the observation in one of Wiley's paintings, titled "Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps."
"The background is also infused with tiny paintings of sperm — Wiley's way of poking fun at the highly charged masculinity and propagation of gendered identity that are involved in the Western tradition of portraiture," it reads.
Sperm Detail from “Napoleon Leading The Army Over The Alps” x Kehinde Wiley pic.twitter.com/w6WuniSOWf— halleteri (@halleteri) December 28, 2017
While the comparison was hilarious to some, others saw it as an affront to the president, the presidency and American tradition as a whole.
"First, let’s start off with the fact that this painting just blows," wrote one critic on Twitter. "It’s completely odd and out of place for a presidential portrait. That’s what happens when you let identity politics choose your artist rather than merit."
First, let’s start off with the fact that this painting just blows. It’s completely odd and out of place for a presidential portrait. That’s what happens when you let identity politics choose your artist rather than merit. pic.twitter.com/LK2pXgNC0k— Mark W. Caputo 🇺🇸 (@MarkWCaputo) February 13, 2018
Wiley is 41 years old. He's best known for his extremely naturalistic paintings of African-American people. His work was exhibited in The Columbus Museum of Art in 2007. He's based in New York City, and was first commissioned to created the presidential portrait in October of 2017.
The completed portrait is now housed in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.