Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Overloaded with symbolism, but will future generations “get” Quinn portrait?

It has been a gimmick of recent men who have served as governors that when they pose for their official portraits that hang in the Hall of Governors in Springfield that there are background details meant to distinguish them.

Quinn making a statement? Or just a political hoarder?
Former Gov. James R. Thompson is posed sitting in front of a portrait of Abraham Lincoln – making it a portrait within a portrait. He also wore an Elgin Watch in his portrait, and made sure to point that detail out.

WHILE IN THE case of former Gov. Jim Edgar, he’s sitting in front of a painting from one of the famed Lincoln/Douglas debates – in fact, the debate that was held in what later became his hometown of Charleston, Ill.

Considering that Edgar, when he was governor, actually had that painting hanging in his office at the Statehouse, it seemed somewhat appropriate.

Even in the case of Thompson, the Lincoln inclusion seemed kind of cute – although I wonder if anyone ever notices the Elgin-brand watch or finds it relevant.

Yet now we move ahead to former Gov. Pat Quinn, who on Monday (a little more than two years after he stepped down from the post) presented the portrait of himself that will hang in the Statehouse halls for generations to come.

THE OFFICIAL WAY we’ll be asked to remember “the Mighty Quinn.”

Which seems like it’s overload.

Quinn had a Lincoln portrait included in the background of his own portrait, along with several objects meant to be symbolic of his time in office.

There’s the photograph of Quinn surrounded by people who happen to be black – which Quinn wants us to know makes them the first non-white individuals whose images will be part of the Hall of Governors; right near Shadrach Bond (the first governor), Joel A. Matteson (whose name pronunciation is now routinely butchered by all the people who live in the south suburb entitled in his honor) and John P. Altgeld (probably now remembered by most as a public housing complex).

OF COURSE, THERE also are illustrations of a wedding photograph of Quinn’s parents, photographs of his sons and other relatives and several specifically-titled books – one of which touts the “Illinois Jobs Now!” program that the former governor would like to believe will be the keystone of his legacy.

If anything, the actual depiction of Quinn seems kind of bland – as though more attention were paid to including items in the background. As it turns out, 44 items to be exact.

Truly a case of the details overcoming the reality of the man.

It makes me wonder if this portrait will ultimately be remembered as a failure. For so many are included that there’s too much to process. Plus the fact that future generations may remember so little of Quinn the details won’t make much sense.

I DID FIND it interesting to learn that William T. Chambers was commissioned to do this portrait. For he’s the same man who gave us the aforementioned portraits of Thompson and Edgar. Which makes him now a politically bipartisan artist.

And yes, Quinn made sure to point out that no taxpayer monies were used to make this portrait. He handled the fundraising himself, which perhaps is why it took just over two years for the work to be finished.

Also ensuring that the only gap we’re going to have for the time being is that of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich – who has been preoccupied with his incarceration at federal facilities in Colorado to be able to pose for a portrait.

Which makes me think it too bad that Quinn couldn’t have included a Blagojevich head shot in the background of his official portrait – since Quinn’s term-and-a-half as governor did start when he was called upon to finish two years of Blagojevich’s term following impeachment.

BLAGOJEVICH CERTAINLY WOULD have fit in with the clutter of Quinn’s portrait. It also would be a blow to the Blagojevich ego since he, in his own self-delusional state-of-mind, thought HE and not Barack Obama, ought to be Illinois’ contribution to the national political fabric.

For those who want to see Rod reduced to nothingness, how much lower could he go than to be merely remembered as a bit player in “the Quinn Years?”


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