via NY Times
Mimi Torchia Boothby’s job as a technician puts her outside a wind tunnel every weekday at the Boeing plant south of Seattle, but in her free time two years ago she took up watercolors. Among her favorite subjects are cats, idyllic scenes of Italy — and, of course, Barack Obama, whose contemplative, sun-splashed portrait she completed a few weeks after his election as president.
She was so happy with it she started offering fine prints of it on the Web, her first proud professional act as an artist, and has since sold more than two dozen at $40 apiece. “Talk about viral,” Ms. Boothby, 57, said. “Most of the people who bought them were people I didn’t even know.”
Perhaps not since John F. Kennedy, whose dusty portraits can still be seen in kitchens and barbershops and alongside the antique beer cans at bars like Manuel’s Tavern in Atlanta, has a presidency so fanned the flames of painterly ardor among hobbyist and professional artists.
Mr. Obama’s campaign was well known for inspiring art, including Shepard Fairey’s ubiquitous “Hope” poster, a version of which is now in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington. Months after the election, with the glow of the administration’s first 100 days dimming, it might have been expected that enthusiasm for Obama art would be dimming, too.
Yet the still-ample offerings of original paintings of the president and the first family on eBay and at places like the annual Affordable Art Fair in New York — along with a crop of presidential-art-obsessed Internet sites including obamaartreport.com, artofobama.com and, inevitably, badpaintingsofbarackobama.com — are indications that it might just be a growth industry.
The phenomenon has been a boon to the near-anonymous painting factories crowded together in the suburbs of Shenzhen, China, famous for cranking out copies of masterpieces, along with landscapes and semitasteful nudes. Another one, seemingly based in Germany, offers stately Obamas amid air-brushy likenesses of Tupac Shakur, Bruce Lee and Al Pacino (in his “Scarface” role), advertised as “real hand-embellished” paintings on canvas. Continue reading