Yesterday, I ascended the elevator to the fourth floor of the Louisiana State Capitol for the first time since Bob Mann and I posed for a selfie in front of the dead-color, underpainting of former Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Hundreds of visitors had seen this surreal masterpiece of Jindal before, a painting that manages to be both tone-deaf and color-blind, a paradoxical yet unintentionally illuminating portrait of a man who spent much of his early adult years struggling with and writing about identity politics and the allure of acculturation.
But for whatever reason, no one had thought to share this vitiligo-inspired, postmodern masterpiece with the public until I asked my friend Robin May to send me a picture she’d taken of it a couple of years prior. Once, I received it, I published Robin’s photo of the masterpiece to the world, in early April of 2015.
And almost immediately, the internet freaked out. Kyle Plotkin, then serving as Jindal’s communications director, attacked me as a “race-baiter,” completely failing to recognize the ways in which the portrait itself was actually both a commentary on race-baiting and identity.
I have some sad news to report: The portrait has not only been removed; it has also been unceremoniously returned to the artist’s commissioner, instead of where it belongs: As a part of the Louisiana State Museum’s collection on loan to Treasurer John Kennedy’s office.
The wall upon which it was once placed is now barren, currently being prepped for an immensely tasteful and appropriate replication of the state seal.
But I wasn’t on the fourth floor in my typical role as an art critic; I was there to hear Gov. John Bel Edwards address a small gathering of elected officials and business leaders from Central Louisiana.
The situation is bleaker than any of the artwork that once adorned the marbled and wood-paneled walls during the Jindal administration, we learned. The crisis we face is still existential, and our best hope, the governor said, was that a second special session take its job seriously.
But nonetheless, I was in a good mood, sitting on the fourth floor of the Capitol in an office led by a Democrat and staffed by many of my friends. Earlier that day, Gov. Edwards signed an historic executive order, rescinding former Gov. Jindal’s Marriage and Conscience order and expanding workforce discrimination protection to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and, for the first time ever, transgender employees. This was a big deal.
I wanted to say something, because all afternoon, I’d been reading praise for his actions. So while folks lined up to take photographs with him, I waited patiently.
As KALB assembled their camera equipment and readied him for an on-camera interview, I stood up.
“How are you, Lamar?”
“I just wanted to thank you for signing the executive order. I’ve heard from so many of my friends who are so proud of you,” I said.
“Well, thank you. Lamar,” he said, “it was the right thing to do.”
KALB conducted its brief interview, and the Governor moved onto his next event. The reporter, though, turned around and asked me, “What executive order?”
And I thought to myself, “Wow. A lot has changed up here in only four short months.” The reporter wanted to know about the budget and how it would affect the people of Central Louisiana, which were the right questions to ask. Let the so-called Family Forum obsess over the private sex lives of American citizens. Gov. Edwards ended much of that discussion with two simple signatures. That’s the easy part, because, as he said, it’s the right thing to do.
It seems appropriate and fitting to me that Gov. Edwards decided to replace Bobby Jindal’s bizarre portrait with the state seal- and not a piece of self-aggrandizing fan art that demonstrates, powerfully, a fundamental lack of self-awareness and considered introspection.
It’s a new day in Louisiana.
I certainly hope its a new day in Louisiana, the legislature has no business invoking its fears, and phobias into the private sex lives of its citizens. It was the right thing to do, my grandson texted me from college, excited that we had made the national news for something positive…Keep up the good work, Lamar, I always look forward to reading your blog, I think if it weren’t for you, Robert Mann, and Tom Aswell, I would go completely nuts.
“It was the right thing to do.” A governor with a moral compass, and not one whose morals change with political polls.
Parallels to the disappearing ghostly portraiture of Piyush and the offing of hate legislation by Edwards in the Capitol can be found in New Orleans and the North Carolina statehouse. In Charlotte, Governor McCrory’s lame attempts to “clarify” and downplay the discriminatory legislation he and his cohorts just passed into law were rewarded with the cancellation of a performance by another cultural icon in the person of Ringo Starr. We in Louisiana, conversely, should expect no pop concert/superstar or business cancellations from the trashing of this legislation. It may have a more positive impact that several Jindal world tour junkets marketing Louisiana.
Down New Orleans way, the attempts to remove the sculptures of long-deceased Confederate generals has met with more resistance than did the creation of blank wall space in a Capitol hallway by the assumed owner and vainglorious commissioner of the artwork. Once said and done, however, it might be amusing to see how many of these concrete and marble mummies would fit into John Kennedy’s office.
Parallels with the disappearing ghostly portraiture of Piyush and the offing of the current discriminatory hate law by Gov. Edwards can be found in North Carolina and New Orleans. Despite efforts to downplay the ugly message of their recently passed anti-LGBT legislation, Governor McCrory and denizens of North Carolina were rebuffed with yet another cancellation, this time in the person of Ringo Starr. Louisiana, conversely, should expect no similar repercussions; and the business climate may end up better than the results of several Jindal junkets in search of the loaded global venture capitalist.
Down New Orleans way, efforts to remove the statuary of Confederate icons has proven more emotional than the creation of blank wall space in a hallway in the Capitol. In fact, emotions on the latter were probably ranged from full support of the ex-communication to barely audible “meh”s. Once said in done, it would be interesting to see the final resting place of as many of these concrete and marble generals, along with other state-owned fine art, also in the office of John Kennedy.
Former Gov. Mike Foster discovered and promoted Former Gov. Bobby Jindal as his “boy wonder” and protégé’. Over time , his tenure became as peripatetic , bizarre and disappointing as the other “boy wonder” governor of our era , Harold Stassen. On the other hand , the present Gov. Edwards has the promise of being our best governor since Dave Treen . His Executive Order further distinguishes La. as better and different from some of its Dixie neighbors.
Look at the Jindal portrait next to the Jerry Brown official portrait and it tells you all you need to know about either man.
No, the budget is not an ‘existential threat’ unless general stupidity counts as an existential threat. Louisiana can’t afford an effectively negative corporate income tax. Just a normal, run-of-the-mill tax regime and Louisiana’s problems disappear overnight.
Now Jim Brewer if we could just get LABI to understand that.