Office Space: Part Congressional Office, Part Art Gallery

Posted June 26, 2009 at 4:53pm

While many Members of Congress decorate their offices with art borrowed from galleries back home, Rep. Joe Pitts (Pa.) prefers to display his own work. The seven-term Republican is a legislator by day and a talented artist by night.

[IMGCAP(1)]Pitts’ office in the Cannon House Office Building is peppered with images of Valley Forge, Abraham Lincoln and other historical subjects. The shelves are decorated with bronze sculptures that the Congressman created.

“When I was in the military, I entered a couple of art … contests and I won a couple of first places and they gave me a $50 savings bond,— Pitts says.

He continued to paint and sketch through his time in the service. In fact, he says some of his favorite Sunday afternoon activities include sketching, painting and sculpting.

“It’s just a thing that I do to relax,— he says — he has had no formal training.

One large image in Pitts’ personal office is an oil painting of the Capitol Dome with the flag out front flying at half-staff.

“When you walk out of Cannon at night, you look at the Dome against the night sky and that’s what you’d see,— he says of the painting. “I had this just about done on 9/11 and I was here that week. And they put the flag at half-mast, so I went home that weekend and put the flag at half-mast.—

[IMGCAP(2)]On an adjacent wall, Pitts has hung a series of sketches that portray Lincoln from 1860 to 1865. The Congressman says the Great Emancipator is a hero of his.

“That’s called Old Abe Ages,’ and I put a quote on there. He was in debate with the Sen. Stephen Douglas [D-Ill.] and he was accused of being two-faced by Douglas and he said this in response: I leave it to my audience. If I had another face to wear, do you think I’d wear this one?’— Pitts says with a laugh.

Hanging alongside the sketches of Lincoln are drawings of William Penn and some of Pitts’ other political heroes.

“These are like the abolitionist trail,— Pitts says pointing to a series of sketches. This is “showing the influence of John Newton on William Wilberforce, who influenced John Quincy Adams, who influenced Lincoln. If you trace the history, that happened.—

In addition to displaying his artwork in his office, Pitts occasionally shows pieces in galleries in Lancaster, Pa. He also gives out prints of his work to friends and colleagues.

When Pitts isn’t sketching or painting, he’s sculpting bronze busts of historical figures. On a shelf in his office is a bust of Lincoln sitting. He says the piece took him three hours to sculpt.

Pitts also does wood carvings. He has carved his own versions of Noah’s Ark for his grandchildren and filled them with animals.

“I’ve tried to make some [animals], but they’re a little too hard,— he says. “I bought them from a person who is in Africa. They make little animals, and then I put wheels on them so they can roll them around the ark.—

While some of Pitts’ pieces are very intricate and impressive, the Congressman remains humble about his work.

“I don’t know what I’m doing,— he says with a chuckle. “I just have fun.—

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