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Kehinde Wiley - A Man of Original Talent

As a boy who grew up fishing through neighbors’ trash cans to help out his single mother, Kehinde Wiley faced no shortage of adversity throughout his life. Despite this, Wiley has lived a remarkable and influential life. Wiley has created magnificent pieces of art that many Americans would recognize today.

Since Wiley was young, he was involved in art classes in his home region of South-Central Los Angeles. He also lived in Russia when he was 12 years old. While in Russia, he studied art as well as the Russian language. His mother had kept him involved in these activities in the hope that they would keep him out of trouble. His mother was afraid he would be associated with boys in their neighborhood who had been gang-affiliated or involved in other forms of violence. Although it may have saved his life, he mainly stayed involved in art because it truly became his passion.

As he graduated from Los Angeles High School of the Arts, he went on to acquire his BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) in the Bay Area from San Francisco School of the Arts. From there, he received a scholarship to study at Yale School of Art in New Haven, Connecticut, where he eventually received his MFA (Master of Fine Arts). For a while after he graduated, he worked for as low as $500 a month in a studio museum in Harlem. As a member of two minority groups, being African American as well as part of the LGBTQ community, he strongly believed in the idea that he should not create what others expected of him, but what he envisioned in his own mind. By challenging the mainstream ways of art, he believed he could prove that uniqueness can achieve success as well. Many of his portrait paintings were influenced by mugshots, as he was fascinated with the way he could change them to have a positive meaning. His journey has put him in the position to receive the 2014 Medal Of Arts, which was created in the 1980s by Congress and is considered the highest honor given to artists.

Currently, Kehinde Wiley has achieved great feats in the art world such as painting former President Barack Obama’s portrait for the Smithsonian Museum and directing portraits of African Americans to portray “Heroic Poses.” At his current age of 42, it is likely that he will continue to create distinctive pieces of art as well as act as a role model for minority groups across the globe.

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