Like the rest of President Obama’s cabinet, Sally Jewell is gone.
But — at least in the Department of Interior’s Washington, DC office — she will never be forgotten.
That’s because her portrait now hangs there, alongside her 50 predecessors.
It’s a non-traditional painting. And it’s of “06880” interest because the artist is Staples Class of 1972 graduate Bradley Stevens.
A Wrecker basketball star (and rock guitarist) who earned both a BA and MFA from George Washington University in 1976, Stevens is one of America’s leading realist painters. His work — depicting Vernon Jordan, Allen Iverson, Felix Rohatyn, Senator Mark Warner, and dozens of other politicians, financiers, educators, judges and sports figures — hangs in the Smithsonian, US Capitol, State Department, Mount Vernon and Monticello.
His Sally Jewell commission came on the recommendation of collectors of his work in Seattle, who knew her. Her previous job was CEO of REI, based in that city.
Last April, Stevens met the secretary at Interior headquarters. Over the next 8 months, as he worked on the portrait, they met many times in his studio.
Stevens hiked with Jewell in the Cascades. “Luckily,” he says, the experienced outdoorswoman — who has climbed Antarctica’s highest peak — “chose a more moderate mountain.”
He posed her on the Manassas battlefield in Virginia — near Stevens’ home — at sunrise, to get the right light.
“It’s not your typical government portrait,” Stevens says. “The landscape plays a prominent role in the composition.”
But, he says, because as head of the National Park Service — and because of her love of the outdoors — he thought it was important to paint her in front of Mt. Rainier. It’s an iconic image of her home town, and she’s reached its summit 7 times.
Jewell — who as secretary helped expose underprivileged young people to the environment — asked Stevens to include Youth Conservation Corps volunteers on the trail behind her.
In the portrait, she wears silver tribal jewelry. That symbolizes her efforts to protect Native American sacred lands.
The painting was unveiled at the Department of the Interior on January 13. There was a big ceremony, with many speakers.
Stevens says, “It was an honor to get to know Secretary Jewell. She is passionate and driven about her work protecting our nation’s lands.”
She is also “a humble and self-effacing public servant. It was never about attracting attention to herself. Her focus was solely on doing the right things for the environment. This experience restored my faith in government.”
President Trump has nominated Montana congressman Ryan Zinke to replace Jewell. A frequent voter against environmentalists on issues ranging from coal extraction to oil and gas drilling, he received a 3 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters.