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Paintings sparks Oldsmar debate

Are the paintings of Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton art? Or are they political commentary? And do they belong in City Hall?

Depends whom you ask.

Doris Green of Lakeland, president of the Hillary Rodham Fan Club of Central Florida, and Jerry Provenzano, a former mayor and now a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House district representing Oldsmar, don't think the paintings have any place in a city building.

They complain they are satirical and critical of the Clintons.

However, Mayor Jerry Beverland and City Clerk Cheryl Mortenson, both registered Republicans, don't see anything wrong with them.

Mortenson, head of the city committee that considers which artwork to display, is an admirer of Mrs. Clinton who looks so much like her that she is sometimes mistaken for the first lady.

The six Clinton paintings are among more than 90 works being exhibited at City Hall, which exhibits art because Oldsmar has no arts center. The paintings and sculptures in the exhibit are the creations of 47 members of the Orlando and Sarasota-Manatee chapters of the Women's Caucus for Art.

The six Clinton paintings were done by Kitty Petterson, a resident of Winter Park and owner of the Art Works Orlando gallery.

Two of the paintings drew more comment from Green and Provenzano than the others.

One shows the president and Mrs. Clinton standing before a row of chopped-down cherry trees, with the Washington Monument in the background. Mrs. Clinton has her hands crossed reverently and a garland of cherry blossoms in her hair. The president is hiding an ax behind his back.

The painting's title: Not I!

The other painting, titled Chelsea Mourning, shows the Clintons' daughter in bed watching her parents on television as they are about to board an airplane. She looks glum and five goblins surround her.

Petterson, who said she is registered as an independent, said her paintings reflect two aspects of the Clintons: that they got to the White House on their own abilities; and that there is a "constant drip, drip, drip of things cropping up to pick away at their image. Generally, there's an undercurrent of questions about whether they are truthful and ethical."

Not I! refers to the George Washington "I cannot tell a lie" legend, she said. "We must decide whether this modern American Gothic couple follows a contemporary political _ or their own personal _ code of conduct," Petterson said.

She said the Chelsea painting is a "universal statement about 14-year-old children who are uprooted and have no control over their lives or events. The green goblins are the little monsters that live under all our beds and come out and scare us at night."

Green, a retired secretary who moved to Florida from Pennsylvania, first saw the paintings on display at the Barnett Bank Center in downtown Orlando, before they came to Oldsmar.

"I think the paintings are offensive," she said. "Patriotism starts with the president and White House and I resent that art exhibit."

When she learned the paintings were headed to Oldsmar, she called Mortenson's office to complain. Mortenson told her to call Beverland.

"Where's everyone's sense of humor?" the mayor asked. "Good gravy."

Green also called Provenzano to alert him to the paintings.

Provenzano thinks the paintings are "politically motivated." He said he particularly resents the ones of Chelsea because "I believe that children of elected officials should be off-limits."

Provenzano said that while he was mayor, there was a policy adopted that "we don't do partisan politics on city property." He suggested to Green on Friday that she file a formal complaint with the city.

If Green did complain, she would be the only one to complain since the paintings were displayed at City Hall this month, Mortenson said.

That was not the case when they were displayed in Orlando this past April. While they proved popular enough to extend the showing beyond the original closing date, they were taken down before Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles visited the building.

The Oldsmar exhibit is scheduled to remain on display until Sept. 17. A reception is planned for Sept. 10.

Five of the Clinton paintings are in a second-floor conference room of City Hall and the other one is in the Community Development office on the first floor.

If you want to buy any of the Clinton The paintings, they're not cheap. Not I! is listed at $3,000 and Chelsea Mourning at $2,500.

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