Good evening, Death and Taxes readers.
When news broke of George W. Bush’s hacked emails, we at D&T decided to not comment on the majority of the findings—nobody wants to read about the funeral arrangements of a still-living George Bush Sr; that’s over the line. But what isn’t over the line is George Bush Jr’s rather hilarious self portraits of him in the shower and in the bath.
We asked art critic Alexis Hyde to comment on the portraits. Here’s what she had to say:
When trying to wrap my head around the concept of George W. Bush as an artist, the term Outsider art comes to mind. This is a concept that seems to really be on the cultural consciousness as of late and it seems fitting to add Bush to the growing conversation. Quick run down: Outsider art is defined as art created by people outside of the traditional art academia.
Two portraits have come to light – one of a man’s feet, presumably Bush’s, in a bathtub and another of the back of a man and the reflection of his face in a shaving mirror, in a shower. The portrait of the man in the bathtub has drab colors of butter creams, grayish whites and flat forest greens. A pop of pure white from a fluffy towel is on the top off center. The faucet is running, implying that either the subject has just got in the tub or perhaps has been in there so long the water has gotten cold and now needs a little boost of heat. It seems to be a painting about tension and vulnerability. The painting’s border cuts off right below the groin, implying a desire to expose oneself while remaining chaste. Also, the exaggerated perspective imparts on the viewer a sense of vertigo and unease.
The shower portrait is especially interesting for its sense of paranoia and discomfort. While the subject seems to be looking forward, if not a little to his left, a mirror that seems to be facing straight back has his face staring straight at the viewer, an angle and reflection that doesn’t seem to be based in reality. Does the portrait imply that he’s always watching those who watch him or that he always needs to be watching, even when he’s at his most vulnerable, naked and in the shower? Again muted colors give a sense of calm and consistency, yet the uneven tiles imply a sense of distortion in such an everyday and familiar scene. Again, the portrait is cut off right above the buttocks, which emphasizes this recurring theme of the desire to expose but under a certain amount of control.
While not the most technically proficient portraits, they seem to truly convey a man who yearns for peace and tranquility but is unable to achieve those feelings, even in such simple and tranquil of settings.
Or I may just be projecting.