|Billie's "painting" of Bush from an existing photo|
I once heard a simile about George W. Bush that stayed with me. It was that he was like a teenager who stole his father's car and crashed it into a brick wall.
The eight years of the Bush administration were a nightmare. I wound up spending a lot of time on left wing internet sites because I was so frustrated with what was happening. Since Bush left office and retired to Dallas, I've mostly just longed for him to go away. Please go away, George W. Bush! Ftt ftt! Depart! I have refused to read about him or acknowledge his continued existence, and I certainly didn't read his book or go see that W movie about him.
And then a few months ago, I started seeing articles about his new hobby: painting. For the past week in particular, we've been inundated with articles and news segments about an exhibit of his portraits of world leaders that just opened at the Bush presidential library. (This article probably has the most reproductions from the exhibit, if you'd like to take a look.)
So for my first political post, I decided that I wanted to write about Bush and his paintings. I have a strong interest in art and some knowledge about it, and it seemed like the perfect topic.
Bush's works are interesting and passable technically. He's a marginally talented amateur, but his works are immature, lacking depth and creativity. As mentioned in several of the articles I read this week, his portraits look exactly like he projected existing photos on canvas and traced them before painting them. The fact that Bush chose to do portraits of world leaders that included a prominent self-portrait suggests to me that he was making a narcissistic, defensive public statement, like: "I'm a world leader, too! I really am! How come people keep saying my presidency was a failure? I don't get it!"
The subjects of his art are bothersome, too. He doesn't just paint primitive, simplistic portraits of world leaders that he traced from photographs. He paints himself in the shower. He paints his own feet sticking out in the bathtub. He paints dogs. Not that there's anything wrong with painting dogs, but shouldn't a former world leader expressing himself through art have more to say artistically than that? If there was anything going on inside him that resembled introspection, wouldn't he paint about a serious topic that affected him? I don't know, like 9/11? War? Hurricane Katrina? Crashing the nation's economy?
And then I realized what was really bothering me about these paintings. Maybe Bush isn't that bad an artist, after all. I'm still just harboring a buttload of liberal rage about the terrible things he did during his presidency, and that HE GOT AWAY WITH IT. George W. Bush gets to lounge around his luxurious house in Dallas and paint pictures of his feet. And the media reports it like it's actually news worth reporting.
If Bush lied in order to start a war, if he is guilty of war crimes, he should be in prison making special friends with Roscoe the weightlifter. Geez Louise, they're still talking about torture under the Bush administration in the news this week. Yes, Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon, supposedly for the sake of the nation, and I get why Obama decided not to pursue prosecution. But what Nixon did was breaking and entering tiddleywinks in comparison to what Bush did. And Nixon had to resign in disgrace. At least he was self-aware enough to retire quietly and stay out of the public eye. Bush can't even do that. (Did I just say something nice about Nixon? I think I did.)
How to conclude this rant? Hard to say. At least by the act of actually writing about it, I finally realized why seeing all these articles about Bush's paintings has disturbed me so much. Bush is still the teenager who stole his father's car and crashed it into a brick wall. What is bothering me is that he is still getting away with it.