A poster on Free Republic, a Web site devoted to “independent, grass-roots conservatism,” declared Thomas’s Watusi (Hard Edge) (1963) to be an “obvious copy” and “apparent fraud” of a 1953 Henri Matisse cutout collage, l’Escargot (1953). Popular right-wing commentators like Michelle Malkin rushed to share the news, titling a post to her blog Art, Imitation, and the Obamas.”
In a sense, the critics are correct: Thomas copied Matisse. She was open about her interest in Matisse, though, and studied him closely late in her career, a fact that has been widely acknowledged for decades by art historians, according to Los Angeles Times critic Christopher Knight. Knight also reminds readers that artists have drawn on other works as source material for centuries. Warhol used press photographs for his silk screens, Picasso depicted African and Iberian masks in his works, and Michelangelo used ancient Greek statues as painting models. Even today's right-wing organizations appropriate symbols for their own purposes.
Malkin has also criticized the Ed Ruscha painting I Think I’ll...” (1983) that was picked by the Obamas, saying the "art" (which she placed in quotation marks) would be “comical” if Obama’s “lack of authority and certitude weren’t costing so many lives.”