Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Christmas Colors for the White House: Red, White and Impeach


When Deborah Lawrence got the invitation from the White House, the Seattle-based artist decided to make a lefty political statement.

But she never expected it would hang on the official Christmas tree.

Laura Bush asked members of Congress to pick local painters to decorate ornaments for this year's 20-foot Fraser fir in the Blue Room. The globes (to be unveiled by the first lady tomorrow) are supposed to showcase something special about each congressional district. Washington state's Rep. Jim McDermott contacted a local arts organization, which asked Lawrence, a collage artist, to create the local entry.

"I was at first nauseated, then realized it was an opportunity," said Lawrence, 55, who frequently combines politics and satire in her work and saw this as the perfect way "to highlight Jim McDermott because he's a hero of mine."

The nine-inch ball is covered with swirly red and white stripes -- and, in tiny glued-on text, salutes the Democratic congressman's support for a resolution to impeach President Bush. (Also showcased: Washington state's 1919 labor strike, its suffrage movement and the violent anti-World Trade Organization riots of 1999.) Lawrence sent it off to D.C. in September and was very surprised it was accepted for the tree -- and that she was invited to this afternoon's White House reception for the artists, which she flew to D.C. to attend.

"Apparently, they didn't read it -- or Laura Bush is more progressive than I believed," Lawrence told us.

Sally McDonough, the first lady's press secretary, said yesterday that hundreds of ornaments were submitted for display and there were no plans to pull Lawrence's artwork or her invitation. But, she said, "it really is too bad. I haven't seen the ornament, but I would hope that no one would take this as an opportunity to be divisive and partisan. There is a time and place for everything, and I don't think this is either."

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