Blog / 2009 / Buying My Work Should Qualify as an “Official Duty.”

January 3, 2009

From Nick Budnick’s article “A Rebel’s Rise” in the Portland Tribune December 11, 2008:

The story of a portrait that City Commissioner Randy Leonard for months had hung on his wall at City Hall speaks volumes about the man. For one thing, most people don’t buy portraits of themselves; even fewer possess the cheek—or sense of humor—to display them in public. For another, the stocky former firefighter paid for the $750 portrait with campaign funds, money that by law is supposed to be used either for campaigning—or for elected officials’ expenses “if directly related to official duties.”

The painting, which Leonard says was purchased to help a struggling artist, was nowhere to be found on a recent visit to his office. Leonard and his staff speculated that it had been stolen, perhaps as a prank by Mayor-elect Sam Adams.

For so many reasons, I’m sad to say I painted the portrait in question. I created it for my 2005 series Public Faces and exhibited it a second time last March at City Hall as part of Keep Portland Weird.

It was after the latter show that Leonard bought the painting. And, for the record, the Commissioner bargained me down from my asking price, meaning he must have been concerned about using the funds appropriately—or at least using as little of them as possible inappropriately! Clearly, Leonard cared very much about me being a “struggling artist.”

painted portrait of Randy Leonard
Gwenn Seemel
Randy Leonard (Portland City Commissioner)
2005
acrylic on canvas
24 x 18 inches
UPDATE

March 10, 2009

The Leonard portrait dragged my name and my chosen genre through the mud a few more times before this story was finally put to bed. I share my reactions here and here.

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