Artist trims Bushes’ tree
December 12, 2007
This holiday season, Letitia Lussier’s artwork adorns the White House’s tree at the nation’s capital.
On a National Park-themed pine, Lussier’s two 7-inch ornaments dangle some 18 feet high in the Blue Room, decorated with 360-degree scenes inspired by her summer at Washington State’s Lake Chelan National Recreation Area.
Lussier’s ornaments depict quiet scenes interrupted by torrents of crisp blue water — of the majestic gorge and the Harlequin sea ducks who are only content in the most violent, frigid rapids. She says she painted the metallic balls using tiny brushes, each taking 20 hours to complete.
The White House commissioned the ornaments to commemorate the National Parks Centennial Initiative, President George W. Bush’s plan to protect and conserve the 80 million acres of the National Park system in preparation for the parks’ 100th birthday in 2016. The theme is called "Holiday in the National Parks."
Earlier this month, Lussier met First Lady Laura Bush and dined with hundreds of other ornament artists at the Holiday Open House in the State Dining Room.
The Park City artist and birder spent the summer volunteering as an interpretive ranger the base of Agnes Gorge, part of the North Cascades, a mountain range credited with 300 glaciers — the highest number in the lower 48 states. Few humans crossed her path near her cabin she says, and if they did, they were weathered hikers, 100 miles away from the northernmost point of the Pacific Crest Trail. The remote park, which abuts Lake Chelan a natural 1,400-foot deep fiord — is accessible only by ferry boat or plane.
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"I was there to guide walks on birds, tell people where to go and help people to understand their natural environment," she says. "I chose to go because of the beauty. It was absolutely stunning."
When she was asked by the park to paint the ornaments on its behalf, Lussier chose the Harlequin duck because Laura Bush shares her passion for birding and because of the duck’s unique characteristics. Harlequins typically live at sea, but migrate during the warmer months to cold and fierce rivers like Stehekin River that feeds into Lake Chelan. Divers, the ducks disappear to walk along the bottom of the river for minutes at a time. "They’re certainly not mallards that sit on quiet little ponds," she quips.
Lussier’s bird-watching hobby has led her to travel to exotic places throughout the world and motivated her to organize Utah Mountain Bluebird Trails. The 12-year-old Bluebird group posts boxes for the birds to regenerate the population on the Wasatch Front after years of losing their habitat to mining and development.
"Birds are fascinating creatures there are 10,000 species in the world that are all totally different," she explains. "And the fact that they can fly is amazing."
Lussier’s landscapes can be seen in Park City galleries, but she is perhaps better known as a large-scale mural painter. Her rendition of Utah’s mountains can be seen at Sai Sommet and La Pasch at Deer Valley Resort.
Once the holidays are over, Lussier’s decorations will be stored in the White House’s permanent collection. For more information about Lussier visit letitialussier.com . For more information about the White House’s holiday theme, visit whitehouse.gov/holiday/2007.