Late Night: If It’s Dubya, Can It Still Be Art?
If only because TBogg is busy, I feel slightly obligated to note today’s epically weird revelation that, thanks (or not) to a phone hacker who broke into various family email accounts, a handful of paintings by ex-president George W. Bush have been posted online.
It’s easy to snicker at the quality of private (and perhaps unfinished) works by a thoroughly and deservedly unpopular politician. And anyone could be excused for marveling at the potential Freudian complexity of a formerly powerful and famous man sending his sister paintings of himself in the shower and bathtub.
But there’s also something fascinatingly unguarded in those choices, especially for a man who was a cipher in so many ways when he occupied the White House. Notoriously unreflective in office — and in his autobiography — now we see Bush pondering himself in solitude, and sharing the results with close family members. (Note to my siblings: Don’t ever do this to me!)
As Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan notes for Co.Design, there’s something particularly striking about the one that
… shows us Bush’s back as he faces the shower, while a reflection of his face stares from a hanging shower mirror. It’s a startling effect… Bush is using the mirror to point out his presence and reject the gaze of the viewer at the same time.
It’s also noteworthy that, as Jerry Saltz points out, Bush’s paintings “show someone doing the best he can with almost no natural gifts — except the desire to do this.” Like David Bowie recording a new album after several years of apparent retirement, there’s no motivation for Dubya’s artworks aside from the fact that he really, really wanted to create them. (Indeed, Dubya’s depiction of the late Barney captures some of the same brooding quality as Bowie’s portrait of Iggy Pop.) And that sincerity, so absent in his public life, deserves some respect.
I’ll take them over former Iraq-occupation viceroy Paul Bremer’s paintings any day.