Detroit artists inspired by the man and the moment

By Patricia Montemurri
Detroit Free Press

ROYAL OAK, Mich. — As Barack Obama finished his inauguration speech, a dozen artists at the 323 East Art Boutique here erupted into applause and cheers as they stood near their collected portraits of the new president.

"It was empowering and inspirational," said Mike Mac-Kool, 25, of Detroit, one of the gallery owners. "He's a man of majestic nature. It makes me feel pretty hopeful."

The noonday sun pouring into the narrow studio reflected on portraits of Obama in many moods: smiling, pensive, jubilant, somber.

His profile was evoked in bright neon hues or muted shades.

The artists, whose work is displayed on the website,, said they were influenced by the times.

A sturdy rectangle of cardboard was Andrew Alexander's canvas to depict a thoughtful Obama. The president's name is written on the work in a graffiti style.

"I'm using what we can to make the best of the times," said Alexander, 25, of Highland, referring to his use of a mundane medium like cardboard. He called Obama's speech inspiring.

"I liked the explanation of intentions of what he wants to do," Alexander said. "You know that you're in a bad time, but why let that stop you? That's when the most influential things have been forged in our country."

MacKool said art and history have always gone hand-in-hand.

"Embrace this moment," he urged, "through the eyes of artists."


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