By Jueseppi B.
Larassa Kabel’s portrait of the Obamas’ dog, Bo, was chosen for this year’s official White House holiday card. / Larassa Kabel/Special to the Register.
From The Des Moines Register:
Written by Michael Morain
Michelle Obama has chosen a Des Moines artist’s painting for this year’s official White House Christmas card.
“Those are infinitesimal odds,” she said. “I mean, really, that’s crazy weird.”
Both strokes of luck resulted from the small-world political connections Iowans know well. Kabel was invited to submit a painting in September, at the suggestion of Des Moines businesswoman Pamela Bass-Bookey, whose daughter Natalie works for the first lady. The White House invited artists nationwide to submit artwork based on two photos — one of the mansion itself, and one of the Obama family dog, Bo, sprinting across the snowy lawn.
The artist, who is represented by Moberg Gallery and whose work features subjects often rendered in a dream-like blur, chose to paint Bo, adding a scarf around his neck.
“My mom was so happy,” Kabel said. “She’s always told me, ‘Oh, Larassa, you should do pet portraits.’ ”
This high-profile pet portrait paid off, and she can now add “White House Collection” to her resume. Her oil painting is currently on display there, and she and her husband, Chris Snethen, are invited to a party at the White House on Dec. 18.
Snethen’s own brush with fame came after the name of his band, Bob Tyler and the Reckless Hearts, came up in a planning meeting for the East Village Obama rally.
The band plays each year during the Des Moines Marathon, on the Polk Boulevard lawn of a guy who turned out to be an Obama volunteer. One thing led to another until security dogs were sniffing the band’s instruments for bombs and Snethen was shaking hands with one of his idols.
“Springsteen is one of the two or three best American artists. Period,” he said. “ ‘Born to Run’ is probably the best rock ’n’ roll song ever.”
But his son wasn’t so sure.
Thirteen-year-old Emmet Kabel-Snethen played a video game on his phone during Springsteen’s set until his mom persuaded him to put it away.
“ ‘Years from now,’ I told him, ‘when you discover who this is, you’d be mad at me if I let you do that,’ ” Kabel said. “So yeah, he had to endure the agony of listening to Bruce Springsteen from the front row.”
Snethen teaches English at Southeast Polk High School, where his students were duly impressed, especially with the recent invitation to the White House.
He and Kabel had to keep the news about the Christmas card under wraps until just a few days ago.
“I don’t know what to expect,” he said. “I’ll wear a suit and shake hands and smile and just sort of absorb it all, I guess.”
Kabel wondered about the cards, which will be sent worldwide in the next week.
“Will the Queen of England get a card? I mean, she is a dog lover,” Kabel said.
“The Hazards of Love” in colored pencil by Des Moines artist Larassa Kabel.
Des Moines artist Larassa Kabel in front of one of her works of a horse.
An exhibit of Des Moines artist Larassa Kabel’s work at Moberg Gallery.
“Roller Girl” by Des Moines artist Larassa Kabel.