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Area artist’s fish ornament hangs on White House tree

By Staff | Dec 5, 2008

A Matlacha artist was invited to the White House earlier this week to showcase a colorful fish ornament she created for the East Wing’s Christmas tree.
Leoma Lovegrove, known for her vibrant paintings at the annual Arts for ACT benefit, traveled with her husband to Washington, D.C., on Monday.
First lady Laura Bush unveiled her “Red, White and Blue Holiday” on “Good Morning America” on Wednesday, and Lovegrove’s ornament received specific praise in front of millions of viewers.
“Look at this great one from Florida with the fish on it,” said Bush in her interview. “A beautiful one from Pine Island, Florida.”
Lovegrove’s ornament is a round fish adorned with crystals and painted red, white and blue.
She was originally asked by U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers, in October to represent the 14th Congressional District. Overall, 360 artists from across the United States submitted ornaments to appear on the 19-foot Christmas tree.
Other ornaments included a Texas flag, Monarch butterflies, a depiction of Teddy Roosevelt and armadillos.
“I was very excited, especially that I got the invitation to go to the White House,” said Lovegrove. “We stayed near the White House and did eat in their dining room. It was a memory of a lifetime.”
White House staff rolled out the red carpet Monday night for Lovegrove, her husband, Michael Silberg, and 500 at the reception in the East Wing.
Lovegrove painted her clothes in honor of the evening, a form of expression she often employs for special events, although no other artists painted their clothing.
“I painted my outfit because I thought other people would do the same,” she explained.
Because she did not have time to paint her outfit before leaving for Washington, D.C., Lovegrove had to complete the job in her hotel room.
The two visitors from Pine Island received quite a shock after arriving at the reception, realizing some radioactive ingredient in the wet paint had set off an alarm to the Secret Service.
Harmless mistakes aside, Lovegrove said it was wonderful to meet the first lady.
“We didn’t get to meet the president, but we met Laura Bush. She made the formal announcement of the tree,” said Lovegrove.
After the reception, Lovegrove and her husband gave the first lady’s secretary a handpainted thank you note and a poem written by Silberg.
Lovegrove also found out Bush’s shoe size and plans to send her a painted pair of shoes.
“I’m painting a pair of shoes for Laura Bush as a gift,” she said.
Nicknamed “Pine Island’s Painting Princess,” Lovegrove has been an artist in the community for the past 12 years. She owns Lovegrove’s Gallery and Gardens, and depicts local scenery and creatures.
In the past she created a portrait of former President Jimmy Carter, which now hangs in his presidential library in Georgia, and one of Virgin Airlines owner Richard Branson, now in London. Her work has also appeared in the Rockefeller Center in New York City and the Sears Tower in Chicago.