Art Business

At the CIA, she’s an operative with a paint brush

Deborah Dismuke, 63, works in her home studio in Manassas, Va., on a new version of a painting that will hang in CIA headquarters. (Pete Marovich/For The Washington Post) Deborah Dismuke was never fully satisfied with her painting. Displayed in one of the most prominent hallways of the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Va., “Message from Moscow” depicts a critical moment during the Cuban missile crisis. Dismuke thought the faces of the men she had painted needed work. One Saturday, the longtime CIA officer actually took it off the wall, making hurried improvements for about an hour in the nearby women’s restroom. Yet the painting’s flaws still nagged at her. So last spring, Dismuke decided to create a brand new — and more historically accurate — version of “Message,” which she is racing to complete and install before she retires next month. “The original looked bad, and given that it’s the agency, you want to get your facts straight,” said Dismuke, 63. “As an artist, it’s one of those things. I’m a perfectionist.” Her perfectionism has put her in rarefied air. She is the only CIA employee, the first woman and the only African American with a painting in the […]

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