Art Appreciation Post: Bush Family Emails Hacked, Reveal George W. Bush As Budding Artist

A hacker has accessed several accounts belonging to the political dynasty and given candid photos to The Smoking Gun. The most revealing pics show off the self-portraits of amateur painter and avid bather George W. Bush.

Allegedly painted by George W. Bush. Revealed by a hacker.

NY Mag's Jerry Saltz finds something to like about the former president:

Both border on the visionary, the absurd, the perverse, the frat boy. Each echoes the same isolation in small space. Rumination without guilt. Thought without dark nights. The light in each is soft, subtle, embracing, even oscillating. As if the unreal has become a companion to the painter. The first depicts a man with gray hair standing in a shower looking at himself and us in a small shaving mirror. We see him only from behind, from the waist up. The shoulders are slightly rounded. The features are Bush's. In the mirror is that stare, that empty, happy gaze. His eyes look slightly to our left, as if he can't meet our own gaze and is in a world of his own. The glass shower door echoes the well-to-do nature of the portrait of the stone home. But also the layers of visibility, transparency, fragility.

The other picture is the strangest, and the strongest. From over his shoulder, we see Bush looking at himself in the bathtub. This means we've seen two images of him cleansing himself, in warm water. It's already enough to set you off on fantasies of aloofness, aloneness, exile, and hiding. Bush regards himself. Yet nothing untoward is showing or seen. He is chaste and untouched even when alone. We see his knobby knees and his toes peeking up above the running water. A Freudian will have to tell us why the water is running in both pictures. Private baptism; trying to get clean; infantile ecstasies; purification rituals?


George W. Bush Has Finally Achieved A Primitive Sense of Self-Awareness?

Dominic mentioned the Bush phone hacking in the Morning News, and there's lots of interesting little tidbits in that Smoking Gun report about the Bush family's relationship with Bill Clinton. But the most amazing thing about that report is the two self-portraits that George W. Bush painted. If you haven't seen them, you really have to. They're both nudes, with one self-portrait showing Bush's back as he regards himself in the shower mirror, and one shot of his legs and feet in the bathtub.

Bush has no grasp of perspective, or anatomy, or what makes a painting interesting to look at, but these paintings are really sort of touching, like art you'd find on the walls at a school for troubled youth. And you can tell he takes his "art" seriously—in the slideshow, there's also a photo of Bush standing proudly next to a cardboard stand-up teasingly depicting him as a cliched artiste, with a moustache, beret, and bespotted with paint blotches all over his body. It's like he's finally trying to be a well-rounded human being.

It's too late for him, of course. His paintings are laughable (if a little eerie in their childlike simplicity) and there's no way he'll ever manage to learn how to give a shit about another human being by doing shitty still-lifes and portraits of his dog. But I like that he's trying. I like that he's become partially self-aware. It means that maybe he'll be able to briefly understand the mess he's made of everything. Maybe after he paints enough self-portraits, for one second he'll be able to see himself as the world sees him. I hope that makes him uncomfortable. I fucking hope that makes him physically ill.

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