- The Washington Times - Friday, May 10, 2002

The Party Animals public art exhibit that hit the streets yesterday was meant to showcase area talent, but one D.C. woman said she wants her name removed from her work after the city repainted it.
Claire Wilson, a lifelong Washingtonian, was chosen to paint a donkey and an elephant for the project.
In January, Miss Wilson had proposed painting the animals the symbols of the Democratic and Republican parties as a wedding couple under the title "A Marriage of Convenience." The elephant was to be painted a plain gray, with a wedding skirt of clear lace draped around the elephant's legs, according to the proposal.
During the project, the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities which oversaw the exhibit told her that her art was messy and needed paint, she said.
"I tried to laugh it off, but you can't treat an artist with the disrespect I was treated with, I think," Miss Wilson said.
Tony Gittens, executive director of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, said Miss Wilson was asked to accept help on her pieces after members of the commission said her work was incomplete. Miss Wilson acknowledges that she accepted the help.
Near the April 20 completion deadline, Miss Wilson said she showed up at the old Woodward and Lothrop building to work on her elephant, only to find its body repainted completely white and its face repainted pink.
Miss Wilson, who contends she did not agree to have her art completely redone, said the experience has left her personally and professionally insulted.
"I won't sign my name to it," she said of the 4-foot-by-5-foot elephant. "It isn't mine. I think it's revolting."
Miss Wilson will be credited for the piece, and she has decided to keep the $1,000 she received for the elephant and $200 for supplies.
The Party Animals will be the city's largest public art exhibit ever, comprising 200 statues to be placed around the city. The statues are made of polystyrene and each weighs about 150 pounds.
Miss Wilson's couple was chosen by Hecht's department store, one of the exhibit's top sponsors, to be displayed at its Friendship Heights location.
The donkey groom was put on hold indefinitely, and the D.C. arts commission has paired her elephant bride with another artist's donkey for the Hecht's display.
Eight of the Party Animals were unveiled April 23 by D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and first lady Laura Bush at Freedom Plaza.
"Party Animals is a terrific arts project designed to celebrate the talent and creativity of Washington-area artists, as well as our nation's democracy," Mrs. Bush said at the unveiling.
Mr. Gittens said Miss Wilson is the only artist to complain about the Party Animals exhibit, and that most of the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
Miss Wilson, who has taught at the Corcoran School of Art and works as a graphic artist in Montgomery County, likened her struggles to that of another artist.
"As long as I can remember the story of Michelangelo, I can get over it," she said, alluding to the Renaissance artist who painted the Sistine Chapel under the direction of the pope.
Rose Wyzga contributed to this report.


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