It's Wonkette Art Appreciation Time, Featuring Ryan Zinke's Official Interior Dept. Portrait
Former Trump Cabinet member Ryan Zinke dropped by the Department of Interior this week for the unveiling of his official portrait, which shows him riding on horseback through one of the national monuments he helped shrink so it could be opened to commercial exploitation. It was a fitting — if thoroughly weird — tribute to Zinke's tenure at Interior, which he mismanaged until he resigned in 2018 when he could no longer see his desk for all the federal investigations of his behavior in office. Gizmodo Earther's Brian Kahn has the deets:
Zinke's portrait was painted by Montana artist Brent Cotton and shows the former secretary riding on a horse in front of a tree-capped butte. The department said the painting was funded by private donors, though it did not specify who ponied up for the portrait. The inspiration for the painting is Bears Ears National Monument, which the then-secretary visited in 2017 ahead of shrinking it. Heather Swift, a former Interior press secretary, tweeted at Deseret News reporter Amy Joi O'Donoghue, asking, "look familiar? :)".
Indeed, it does! O'Donoghue joined Zinke on a ride through Bears Ears. Photos of them show a butte in the background that's a carbon copy of the one in Zinke's portrait.
Yep, same spot, different angle. Enjoy!
It's a perfectly competent painting that is somehow not the work of America's Greatest Artist Jon McNaughton. You can tell by the subtle details: It doesn't have Barack Obama burning the Constitution or Donald Trump rescuing the flag from rude Black athletes. As they say in art classes, the use of negative space is very important.
It's a good thing no taxpayer funds were wasted on it, at least. Honestly, Interior already had this perfectly fine portrait of Zinke that we only discovered once he quit:
Seven months after that trip to Bears Ears, which had been established through tyranny by Obama in 2016, Zinke had the pleasure of looking on as Donald Trump signed an executive order telling Bears Ears and another national monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante, "YOU'RE FIRED." Or at least radically cut in size. Bears Ears lost roughly 85 percent of its size, going from 1.35 million acres to a puny 201,000 acres, and Grand Staircase-Escalante, a radical liberal monument created by Bill Clinton, lost about half its acreage. Litigation challenging Trump's authority to trash established national monuments, even those created by Democrats he really hated, is ongoing.
While the decimation of Bears Ears was very popular with America's extractive industries and Utah lawmakers, Kahn notes it really cheesed off a whole bunch of folks, including environmentalists, paleontologists and archaeologists, and especially the Native American tribes who had been among the biggest advocates of creating the monument in the first place, to preserve sacred sites. Not to mention the 99 percent of the public who submitted comments opposing the move. But not to worry: Indigenous folks may have lost protection for the land, but at least they gained a very tiny and hypocritical tribute from the artist!
Cotton has said the portrait includes a "nod to his respect of the native Americans tribes" (sic) in the hat band. Again, Zinke chose to shrink Bears Ears over the opposition of five tribes who hold the land to be sacred and originally convinced President Barack Obama to set it aside.
On the upside, at least Donald Trump didn't show up to make yet another "Pocahontas" joke about Elizabeth Warren, so there's that. Zinke himself seemed a tad disrespectful to one of the Indigenous activists who offered input during that 2017 trip, as Kahn points out:
[Zinke] got a little aggressive with Indigenous Bears Ears advocate Cassandra Begay after she asked him to listen to people asking to keep the monument protected. In a video posted of the incident, Zinke can be seen turning and jabbing a finger at her while scolding "be nice." Not how I'd show respect to someone, even if I disagree with them, but then I'm also not someone who would get embroiled in 17 known probes into misconduct nor lie to federal investigators.
Guess the little hat band is all the respect that's needed, like naming a subdivision after all the species of trees that were bulldozed to construct it.
We still think Zinke's official portrait could be improved, so we wasted an hour and some on this image of Ryan Zinke riding through a landscape he'd really appreciate:
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