Seattle Artist's Christmas Ornament Banned from White House Tree

Offensive Christmas Ornament created by Seattle artist, Deborah Lawrence.

Image: Deborah Lawrence.

Seattle artist, Deborah Lawrence, was one of 370 artists who were given the honor of creating a Christmas ornament for the White House's official Christmas trees. This was after Laura Bush invited all 435 Congresscritters to choose artists from their congressional district to design ornaments for the White House Christmas trees. Unfortunately, Lawrence's 9-inch ball was the only one that was banned from the White House trees, even though it fulfilled all the requirements set out by the committee.

"The White House specifically stated that the artists were to have the freedom to produce what they wanted within the theme of red, white and blue, and couldn't show it to anybody before it was shown at the White House," said Jim Kelly, executive director of the King County Arts Commission, known as 4Culture. Lawrence was chosen after her name was suggested by Heather Dwyer, 4Culture program manager.

Dwyer said she wasn't looking for somebody who would blandly decorate an ornament. She was thinking about artists, not illustrators.

"I suggested her because of her social engagement -- feminism, anti-war, anti-poverty -- and knew she'd think of it as an opportunity."

What was so offensive about this particular ornament? If you look closely at the above image, you'll notice that it features a picture of Washington State congressman, Jim McDermott, who proposed impeaching GW. In addition to McDermott's image, you'll notice that the ornament also includes glued-on text that supports McDermott's impeachment resolution.

"I think it really is a shame and, quite frankly, not very much in the holiday spirit," stated first lady Laura Bush's spokeswoman, Sally McDonough.

Hrm, apparently, McDonough doesn't support our constitutional right to freedom of speech, either.

But this should not have been a surprise to anyone who knows Lawrence's work.

"Her work is all about social justice," said Catherine Person, who exhibits Lawrence's work at Person Gallery in Seattle. "She's the most political artist I know and the most political artist I represent by 100 miles. She's a firebrand. Her last show in September was completely devoted to anti-Bush statements."

Interestingly, all 370 artists, including Lawrence, who sent ornaments to the White House were invited to a party yesterday to see their ornaments on a cluster of trees on the White House lawn.

"I was afraid I'd be blocked at the door," said an obviously pleased Lawrence, "but here I am. ... There are platters of roast beef, soft drinks and white wine, with a duet of pianists playing Christmas music."

It's a good thing that Lawrence did not wear any clothing bearing her political sentiments, or she might have been banned from the party herself.

When asked whether her political positions might have been better left off the Christmas ornament, Lawrence responded: "When else would I get a chance to do it at the White House? I'm happy (Barack) Obama is going to be president, but we have to hold Bush and (Vice President Dick) Cheney responsible for heinous crimes. If Bush shows up to this event, I'll tell him that. If Laura Bush comes, I'll say, 'I bet you're glad the last eight years are almost over.' "

Of course, Lawrence's ornament would have been nearly impossible for anyone with normal eyesight to see anyway.

"Even if my ornament were still here, I wouldn't be able to find it," observed Lawrence. "There are too many. I'd like to get it back, but that's probably not going to happen. I've never seen so many Christmas trees, and I don't like Christmas."

Offensive Christmas Ornament held by its creator, Seattle artist, Deborah Lawrence.

Image courtesy of Deborah Lawrence.


Seattle PI (quotes).

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Hmm. If I invited someone to make an ornament for my house, I guess I'd be a bit annoyed if the ornament recommended I be tried for a crime.

Hrm, apparently, McDonough doesn't support our constitutional right to freedom of speech, either.


What Jordan said. If I were President and someone made an ornament suggesting that I should be impeached, I wouldn't put it on the White House Christmas tree either.

Hell, I'd put it up. I take responsibility for my actions and as long as it wasn't some irrational garbage, I'd accept it for what it was: one person's opinion of my actions and conduct. I might not agree, but the instructions didn't say "don't send anything the president won't agree with".

Didn't Bush (or any of his staff) see this coming? He's a public figure who, as a politician, courts scrutiny. If he's going to invite artists to create some art for him, wouldn't he expect someone to be critical?

He should have just hidden the bauble round the back of the tree, near the top where nobody could see it.

Meh. The artist had a right to make it, they had a right to refuse it.
But I think the artist did an awesome job. 'tis a pity they didn't give it back; I bet she could get a bundle on e-bay.

if bush committed a crime (as it appears he did), why shouldn't he be tried for it?

What? Another example of incompetence from the White House? If the statement "even though it fulfilled all the requirements set out by the committee" is indeed true, then they truly are incompetent because they should have anticipated this possibility and written it out of consideration in the rules.

Instead, they allow this "event" to reach the media and generate more bad press for the failed presidency. Oh well, as the spineless Speaker of the House has refused to allow the Articles of Impeachment to the House floor, we can just pray that indeed there are only 48 more days . . .

if bush committed a crime (as it appears he did), why shouldn't he be tried for it?

Damn straight! If Clinton can be impeached, why can't Bush?

if bush committed a crime (as it appears he did), why shouldn't he be tried for it?

Well, sure, if he committed a crime, he should be tried for it. But that's separate from whether he (or his staff) should think it appropriate to have an ornament on their Christmas tree with accusations on it.. Right?

of course it's separate! but since when did a little detail like that prevent people from creating tangents to an ongoing discussion?

This isn't about whether or not Bush should be impeached. It is about a horribly misguided woman turning what should have been a wonderful honor into an embarrassing moment for Mrs. Bush, who was kind enough to invite DL into her home with an example of her art. Anyone who thinks DL's actions were fabulous is misguided themselves.

Who pays for the White House Christmas tree? If the money comes out of the federal budget (as I assume it does), it's not really the Bush's tree, just like the White House isn't really their house. This isn't analogous to a situation involving a private residence, or a private tree. It's a government-sponsored event, in which case there has to be some latitude for political speech.

So, instead of being put on the tree where it would probably be lost among all the others, this one gets pushed out and that makes it newsworthy. Heckuva PR job, Georgie!

Do not let us believe that being an anti-Christmas ass is a Freedom of Speech issue. The artist exercised her right of expression, knowing well that presentation of her brand of "social justice" was derogatory and risky, and McDonough exercised her right of discrimination. Lawrence can be disrespectful, but no one has to hang it on a tree.

Deborah Lawrence is doing all of this to create this discussion and for the attention. She likes to raise issues and thoughts among people. It was the perfect opportunity for her to make a name for herself. It's all in humor. I bet she is laughing right now at all this, but Deborah, you are representing Washington State and I'm furious with your choice of words to put on an ornament with Washington State's name on it! Washington can be represented in so many more positive ways.