Letters From the West

Kjellander’s painting tells story of media’s role

kjellander paintingPaul Kjellander’s paintings hang in places like Bardenay and the homes of and offices of the notable Idahoans he has captured in oil.

Now a painting of the Idaho Public Utilities Commissioner hangs in the State Capitol. Kjellander hopes it will be the first in a series of paintings that tell the story of the legislative process that will hang permanently in the hallowed halls.

First I will tell you my conflict. I’m in it and I was born in the same Galesburg Illinois hospital as the artist.

The artist, Paul Kjellander, left and his subjects, Rep. George Eskridge, Sen. Curt McKenzie and Betsy Russell(Rocky Barker Idaho Statesman photo)

The artist, Paul Kjellander, left and his subjects, Rep. George Eskridge, Sen. Curt McKenzie and Betsy Russell(Rocky Barker Idaho Statesman photo)

Kjellander, a former Republican lawmaker and director of Gov. Butch Otter’s Office of Energy Resources, appropriately painted the two chairman of the Legislature’s Interim Energy Committee, Republican Rep George Eskridge of Dover and Republican Sen. Curt Mckenzie of Nampa as I and Spokesman Review Reporter Betsy Russell were interviewing them. The painting, named “The Media and the Legislature,” is designed to tell the story of the press and its role.

Look closely at the painting and you will see both the Idaho Statesman and the Spokane Spokesman-Review in Russell’s briefcase. Eskridge, next to me is holding the state energy plan hat the interim committee drafted. McKenzie has a company of an Energy Magazine.

We all posted for the painting in January. I had to go back and pose again so Kjellander could get the detail on the hands.

Eskridge and McKenzie commissioned and paid for the work and have donated it to the state. Ultimately the Idaho Historical Society recommends what paintings hang in the Capitol.

The Capitol Commission makes the final decision. It was House Speaker Scott Bedke who decided to hang the first in the series in a fourth floor lounge.

Kjellander has already begun work on the next one, a picture of Senate Pro Tem Brent Hill, Majority Leader Bart Davis and Minority Leader Michelle Stennett.

“I’ve already done the preliminary drawings,” Kjellander said.

Kjellander has painted since he was a child. He got serious in the sixth grade in Abington, Illinois when he suffered a concussion and was forced to miss gym for a month and a half. He spent the time in art class.

Later, art helped kick start a future political career when he had to petition the Abington School Board to do independent art studies his junior and senior years. The former teacher and journalist served three terms in the Idaho House representing Boise.

He has painted governors, legislators, lobbyists lawyers, children and landscapes.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West