Vice-Mayor John Kennedy Officially Gifts, Unveils Painting of President Barack Obama at Central Library

Commissioned Oil Painting Now Adorns Central Library Hall

Published : Friday, February 23, 2018 | 6:39 AM

Vice-Mayor John Kennedy Officially Gifts, Unveils Painting of President Barack Obama at Central Library

Vice-Mayor John Kennedy was joined by city officials and other civic leaders Thursday afternoon at the Pasadena Central Library where he unveiled an oil-on-canvas painting of President Barack Obama, which now adorns a wing inside the library.

The commemorative painting, entitled “Yes We Can,” was produced by internationally recognized artist Pascal Mpeck, who was also in attendance. The painting is a personal gift from Kennedy to the City.

“Today’s dedication unveiling is in some respect an extension of telling the story of the important black history in America — truly and American history,” Kennedy said at the unveiling ceremony.

Vice-Mayor John Kennedy listens as artist Pascal Mpeck addresses the gathering at the unveiling of his painting.

Vice-Mayor John Kennedy listens as artist Pascal Mpeck addresses the gathering at the unveiling of his painting.

“Today we lay aside if only for a matter of seconds, heightened concerns from the destiny of our country to celebrate the beautiful mosaic of diversity and possibilities in the land we all love, the United States of America,” added Kennedy.

The oil on canvas painting, titled Yes We Can, was completed in 2017, and measures 63 inches x 55 inches. A City statement described the imagery as a progressive montage of African culture which is meant to represent and cultural connections and continuum between Africa and America.

The title, “Yes We Can,” directly relates to Obama’s Presidential campaign slogan and context of the painting is intended to celebrate America’s positive social, political, and cultural progression and achievements, according to a City report.

The painting is located at Pasadena Central Library in the Ria C. Humanities Wing, above the entrance to the adjacent Ron and Linda Galbally Fine Arts Room, in the southeastern portion of the building.

“The figures and elements composing this painting, represent to me, a template of a long path of a community celebrating more than just an election on that January [2009] day. Rather, an energy that could radiate with such potent power and emotion,” said artist Pascal Mpeck.

“President Barack Obama will forever remain the first African-American President elected to the White House,” added Mpeck.

Pascal Mpeck’s body of work is rooted in his own African heritage having been born in Cannes, France to an African father from Cameroon and a West Indian mother from Martinique.

Mpeck’s paintings also depict the historical and cultural context for African art and artifacts with content that represents many African countries and ethnicities.

The background of the painting features African figures in tribal dress and context, which are followed by prominent African American historical figures, such as Marcus Garvey, Rosa Parks and Frederick Douglass with Barack H. Obama, the 44th United States President, in the foreground.

According to an email statement from Mpeck, symbolically, the imagery shows the progression of African peoples from the old world to the new, from Africa to America and acknowledges the progression and advancement of key personages, leading up to the first Black President of America.

“The aspects of the painting I do enjoy most, is the historical and progressive aspects,” said Mpeck. “This opportunity is special because it gives a chance to share this artwork with the future generations,” Mpeck added.

Kennedy’s gift to the City was originally intended to be sent to a private residence on the east coast–the White House to be exact–until it found its permanent home in Pasadena.

“Today we’re celebrating the history of a much younger icon, President Barack Obama, and I think it ties in nicely with the theme of today’s event which is Pasadena’s focus on art, history, and cultural diversity. This is an amalgam that speaks to making this the unique place that we are,” said Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek.

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