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Nick Coleman


The State I'm In


Portrait of a Nowhere Man

 

Updated: Monday, Oct. 11…

I take back everything I said in my original post (below)…

This putrid portrait of Tim Pawlenty, unveiled this evening, is perfect: It is just as undistinguished as the man…

Real Nowhere Man

 

Undistinguished

 

Tim Pawlenty may be gone from the GOP beauty-stakes but he doesn’t want to be forgotten. Two developments over the weekend show how desperate the former governor remains for attention: First, it was announced that TPAW’s “official” portrait will hang soon in the Minnesota State Capitol (I suggest visitors stay at a safe distance; knowing Pawlenty’s history, the painting might fall on someone). The final portrait has not been released, but from the blank stare in Pawlenty’s face in the painting from the artist, it accurately captures the emptiness and inconsequential nature of Pawlenty’s eight-year reign as a cipher.

I’ll get back to the portrait in a moment, but let’s look at the other Pawlenty news: It turns out that Pawlenty, a poster child for Grover Norquist strategies to starve government until the point where it can be “drowned in a bath tub” or, perhaps, to the point where commuters are drowned in the Mississippi River when their bridge collapses, has been groveling for a job with FOX News. But, in an irony that must make TPAW burn with shame and humiliation — just like back in 2008 when he was pressing John McCain’s trousers and shining his shoes, behaving like McCain’s man-servant in hopes of being given the VP slot — FOX snubbed TPAW.

Poor TPAW. He just can’t get a break. FOX apparently decided Timothy is backing the wrong horse because he has endorsed Mitt Romney since withdrawing from his Quixotic quest last month while FOX’s “Dr. Evil,” Roger Ailes, is backing Texas Gov. Rick Perry. But let’s go back to that TPAW portrait, which will be unveiled at a private big-money bash on Oct. 10 and opened up to tomatoes the public the next day.

I don’t know much about portraiture, but I know a lot about Pawlenty. And this study of TPAW’s face is perfect: It is a huge nothing-burger that exactly captures the phantom achievements of No Where Man TPAW.

(For MY All-Time Top Seven favorite Tim Pawlenty portraits, click here!)

TPAW picked a Bulgarian painter with one name — Rossin — to do his official portrait.  While presumably a more qualified pick than the ex-wrassler selected by Jesse Ventura to do the X-men-like Ventura portrait, Rossin is one of those freaky “realistic” painters whose works make their subjects look like wax corpses propped up at Madame Tussauds. Check out his simian Lincoln, his surfer dude Jesus, or his ghoulish group portrait of (mostly) dead US presidents, with a leaden JFK trapped between Reagan and Bush 41 seeming to be thinking, “All things considered, I’d rather be in Dallas.” Rossin appears to have stuck a camera in TPAW’s face, snapped a mugshot, and spent the past year painting in TPAW’s pores and whiskers and schoolmarmish lips. What we have seen is not so much a portrait as a pathologist’s reconstruction, a look at what the subject’s unimposing face looked like so that it will never be forgotten by generations of Minnesota school children who will be dragged past it and clutch their teachers’ hands tighter.

Who is that creepy man, the little children will ask.

Shut up and keep walking, the wise teachers will reply.

Perhaps the final portrait will be more revealing. But there is no indication in the Tim’s Big Head painting that this un-squinting visage belonged to anyone significant. It could be anyone, or no one. And that is Tim Pawlenty in a nutshell: A man of no importance.

He even is portrayed here in his horrid JC Penney’s red golf shirt, a shirt that screams not humility but phoniness.

Most governors in recent years have been painted in action — standing at their desk (Wendell R. Anderson), posing in front of something that symbolizes a passion for the state (Arne Carlson, in his U of M letter jacket); Jesse posing pretentiously in front of a light-rail train. (Ventura’s cartoonish painting is discussed in this amusing list of “Bad Portraits of Politicians.”) Even Rudy Perpich’s fight to have his first portrait of himself standing in front of an iron mine replaced with one showing him with his beloved wife, Lola, shows how governors strive to capture something essential about their life and their legacy in an official state portrait.

Will TPAW’s painting honor his humble blue-collar roots by showing him standing outside the Croatian Hall in South St. Paul? Probably not: He is hardly welcome in his old hometown anymore. Will it, perhaps, show him outside a factory built in one of his pet no-tax JOBZ zones? Not unless the artist omits the tumbleweeds. Maybe next to the  new I-35W bridge over the Mississippi, with a beaming Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau at his side? Uh, guess not.

For four or five years, the Ordinary Decent Republicans of Minnesota have grumbled that TPAW had no legacy, no real accomplishments to point to as hallmarks of progress in a state once hailed as a model. Except for renewing his oath to Grover Norquist while cars were still being fished out of the Mississippi.

The Giant Head looks just like Tim Pawlenty. Exactly like him. It reveals nothing and nothing is what Pawlenty did while chaining himself to Norquist, Dick Cheney, FOX News and others who have brought us to the brink.

And for what?

Dude can’t even get a bone from FOX News.

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