Obama Heralded With Tacky Art on Sunday's Front Page

So much for sophisticated liberals: Tacky art bearing Obama's visage was lauded in a Randy Kennedy story that somehow made it onto Sunday's front-page, above the fold - "Obama's Face (That's Him?) Rulesthe Web."

Accompanied by a large collage of seven paintings of Obama, ranging from mediocre straightforward portraiture to images of Obama on a psychedelic guitar and in a basketball uniform. Would the sophisticated urban liberals at the Times mock such homegrown kitsch? Hardly. Kennedy's piece was rather respectful, even comparing the Obama portraiture to that of JFK and hinting "it might just be a growth industry."

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.

Kennedy concluded by talking to Dan Lacey, an artist in Elko, Minn:

During the previous administration, he said, he had also tried his hand at some portraits of George W. Bush but added, in a tone that mingled regret with professional candor, "You really couldn't sell them."

This is evidently meant as a jibe against Bush, but considering the paintings on display here, perhaps it works better as a tribute to good taste on the part of Bush supporters.