Kehinde Wiley’s White Hot Hatred

On a quick getaway with my beau this weekend we decided to enjoy an afternoon at the art museum. Seeing as it was exceedingly hot outside, it seemed like it would be a nice midday respite to enjoy some air conditioning and get in some culture. After enjoying some beautiful paintings and sculptures we ended up taking a misguided turn into the “modern art” side of the museum. As we turned a corner my eyes were accosted by an enormous 8 x 10 ft painting of a black woman holding the decapitated head of a beautiful white woman. That’s right, we had happened upon none other than one (because there are actually two different versions of this same painting) of Kehinde Wiley’s “Judith and Holofernes” paintings. Yes, the same Kehinde Wiley who did the ridiculous painting of Obama that we have been forced to hang in our National Gallery.

I, while having heard of Wiley before the Obama situation, never paid much attention to him because I find his work to be loud and garrulous. However, I was immediately taken aback by the obvious violence this piece portrayed to me, specifically, as a white woman. After leaving the museum and doing a bit of background work on the piece I realize that this post does come a bit late as some people have already been “outraged” by these monstrous depictions of black violence against white women. Still, I am revisiting the subject because it was so unsettling to see directly in front of me.

Kehinde Wiley began his first series of paintings to compensate for the lack of black men in traditional art by displacing the white man in Master works with thug looking black men complete with sagging pants, corn rows and Jordans. He has stated, “The whole conversation of my work has to do with power and who has it.” Okay, so replacing whitey with a colored person to make yourself feel better for not being represented at a time when your ancestors were still drawing stick figures from guano on cave walls is one thing. However, why don’t we take a look at the story of Judith and Holofernes on which not one, but TWO, paintings of decapitated white women were formed.

Holofernes was an Assyrian General who was sent to take over Jewish lands. One drunken night he made the mistake of allowing a widowed Jewess by the name of Judith into his tent because he was overcome with lust for her. Once he passed out from too much drink, Judith beheaded him and carried his head back to her cowering Jew countrymen. Without a leader the Assyrians abandoned their mission and Judith had saved all of Israel. What an uplifting biblical tale of feminine strength and wile.

Artemisia Gentileschi’s painting Judith Slaying Holofernes

Now, let’s go back to the painting. An African “Queen” holding the head of a white woman painted by a black man. Outside of there being a depiction of decapitation, where is the story? Did the black woman somehow seduce this white woman with her “charm”, “intelligence”, and “beauty” away from her black country men and has now saved all of blackdom from the very real threat of the white woman? It is a possible use of the narrative, since even our “faithful soul” Kanye has admitted that when a black man “gets on…he will leave yo ass for a white girl.” However, when asked about these paintings in a 2012 interview with the New Yorker, Mr. Wiley’s answer was simply, “It’s sort of a play on the kill whitey thing.” So, as per usual, this is just another case of black animalistic violence with no true purpose other than – let’s get the white devil.

I will conclude this post with a quote from the great black philosopher Antoine Dodson, because his words still ring with resounding truth to this day, and should serve as a warning to all white people about the state of the blacks in this country.

“He’s climbing in your windows, he’s snatchin your people up, tryna rape em so y’all need to hide your kids, hide your wife, and hide your husband cuz they’re rapin errbody out here.”

-By Magnolia Belle