This week with little fanfare, Gov. Mike Beebe amid a gathering of friends and holiday well-wishers, unveiled his formal portraiture as the 44th Governor of Arkansas.
Have you seen it? It is quite a portrait. At first glance, the oil on linen likeness of Beebe placed on a 42-by-50 inch frame will simply stun you.
Yes, I said, stun you. Stun you into rapt silence and respect.
It is just so life like – like those famously well-known works of the European old masters. Or maybe more akin to the Old South of portraiture schools whose works hung in mossy old mansions or in cavernous courtrooms on courthouse squares all across the South.
Yes, this historical rendering of the 44th governor of Arkansas – one of its most favorably-rated governors of the last half century – will still hold sway, looming over the ever-busy proceedings in Governor’s Conference room. It will stay there until the 45th occupant of the office replaces it with his own likeness as the 46th governor prepares to move in.
But let’s not get ahead of the future. Today, I am praising this absolute stunner of a gubernatorial portrait. It is indeed one that will make you stop and gently under your breath say: “Wow, that’s him alright.”
It is a painting that makes one look twice to make sure those piercing blue eyes – his eyes, aren’t real and are not following you around the room. Beebe’s blue eyes have long been a signature look. His eyes say it all, even more so as his once brown-pompadour style hair, which has turned white with age during the last 30-plus years in public service.
The signature relaxed body language of this veteran state Senator, Attorney General and Governor is also ever so delicately featured in her work. In the likeness Beebe is slightly leaning back in his chair, with his hand cocked under his jaw contemplating something with his eyes.
His smile is also slightly askew. That’s Mike Beebe, just an instant before he is about to speak. And it’s the look as he will speak to you alone or to a room overflowing with the same authority, to a question you have just asked of him.
The portraiture – and yes, that is the formal name – is heralded art flowing from the brush of a fellow Arkansas – Ovita Goolesby. She was, for the record, the first Arkansan to paint a sitting governor in more than 30 years. Goolesby, who does private commissions and also teaches a class in portraiture at National Park Community College in Hot Springs, has outdone herself in this classical art work of the governor.
Her art commissions’ calendar, I predict, is soon to be full to overflowing from Arkansans and others who would like this Hot Springs talent to paint a likeness of some relative for them.
Gov. Beebe and First Lady Ginger Beebe researched the available artists and discovered Goolesby’s work. They were both all smiles and very complimentary of the in-state artist at the unveiling this past week. Quoted in the state wide newspaper, the Governor, who has been about all things Arkansas for the last eight years as chief executive said: “This is Arkansas talent. It’s not New York talent, it’s not L.A. (Los Angeles) talent, it’s Arkansas talent, and I’d even argue it’s a little bit better.”
And we agree with him.
The portrait and frame has a price tage of $12,500, and was paid for by the State Democratic Party and with private funds. It will be placed in its proper place, above the fireplace in the Governor’s Conference Room.
Mike Beebe in physical form may be leaving the governor’s office soon, headed he says for a retirement on the golf links.
His impeccable likeness in the grandest fashion that I have seen in some time in Arkansas’ art world, will be there looking down on the entire goings on in the hub of power in our state.