Friday, February 19, 2016

TOP STORY >> Portrait of Griffin unveiled

Leader staff writer

Roberta (R.B.) McGrath’s painting of Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin was unveiled Thursday at her gallery, 118 S. First St. in Jacksonville.

Griffin, state Rep. Bob Johnson (D-Jacksonville), Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher, Director of Administration Jim Durham, Joan Zumwalt, Alan Storeygard, Jacksonville Police Lt. Jason Garcia, Dean Elliott with the lieutenant governor’s staff and Griffin’s wife attended the event.

The lieutenant governor didn’t commission the portrait. He said, with a smile, that he couldn’t afford to do so. But Griffin did ask that his image hang by the mayor’s portrait, which will be its home for now, as it’s part of McGrath’s permanent collection. She is still working to bring an arts center to the city and hopes that one day the piece will hang in a museum that is part of such a center.

The painting, titled “Reaching Out, the Honorable Tim Griffin, Lieutenant Governor, Arkansas,” shows Griffin standing outside his office at the Capitol, with the state flag on his left and light from a window outside the frame shining on his right.

He said, while standing in front of it, “She makes you look better than you actually do. See here...She gave me some hair, a little bit of hair, better looking suit.”
Griffin also told The Leader, “Like all the other paintings here, incredible. She is so unbelievably talented.” He calls the artist an “Arkansas treasure.”

McGrath said she wanted to paint the lieutenant governor as part of her “High Achiever” series on people who have “managed to rise through the ranks, climb the ladder through their own determination and their own set of morals, are able to rise above everything and achieve levels most of us can only dream of.” She added, “But also their contributions to society will be felt for generations to come, for decades to come.

McGrath said she painted Griffin “because of his ability to lend a helping hand to his constituents and reach out to the citizens of Arkansas, I was inspired.” The artist said she called Griffin’s office and “begged” him to let her paint the masterpiece.

Then the lieutenant governor’s staff graciously arranged for McGrath to take photos of him at the Capitol because she knew he wouldn’t be able to sit five or six hours for the portrait. “And I’m hyperactive,” Griffin quipped.

The artist spent two months on the endeavor.

Griffin explained that he first met McGrath in 2013, when he learned that one of her paintings had been pirated and was being sold worldwide by Chinese manufacturers.

McGrath said, “It was his congressional office in Washington that went to bat for me...And it’s still an ongoing process because they’re still doing it.” She added that California filmmaker Keith Hudson is producing a movie on that situation.

He saw her work, and two of McGrath’s paintings are on loan, hanging at his Capitol office.