Friday, April 4, 2014

"WORLD LEADER" PORTRAITS BY GEORGE W. BUSH

As a one-time "art critic"--and one who still writes about art from time to time--I make it a general rule not to write about art I have not seen in person.  How could I resist, though, when the artist is George W. Bush?

Long-time readers might remember that "The Buddha Diaries" themselves evolved from "The Bush Diaries", my first blog.  I fell down the rabbit-hole of the blogosphere on November 5, 2004, the day after Bush was re-elected.  A faithful, life-long leftie, I was astonished that the American electorate would choose to return to office the man who had led us into the already badly mismanaged Iraq war, and whose policies seemed to me foolhardy and intemperate in their favoring of the rich at the expense of the middle class and, especially, the poor.  I wrung my hands and asked myself, as did many others: what can I do?  The only thing I know how to do is write, so I went online... and fell head-first into the blogosphere.

Now, nearly ten years later, I'm still blogging away, so I have this practice to for which to thank the former President--though in truth, in my opinion, not much else.  "The Bush Diaries" was a daily, tongue-in-cheek communication with the then President, not rude, I hope, but rather teasingly disrespectful in tone.  As Bill Maher might put it, "I kid the President!"  The blog came to an end when I realized I was waking up with Bush in bed with me every morning, and my preference went instead to the Buddha--a wiser friend and inspiration.

I heard some time ago that Bush has turned his hand to painting, and I saw images of some of his early efforts--his feet in the bath, as I recall, and his back in the shower.  It was easy enough to mock them as childish and incompetent daubs.  Then came Barney…



… and the kitty-cat in the mirror, which seemed to even the jaundiced critic's mind just a bit more technically accomplished.  Still, in the back of my mind, there was this judgment: here are these former democratic Presidents--Carter, Clinton--who busy themselves in world affairs and devote their energies to diplomatic and philanthropic projects; and here's George Bush, an amateur painter???  Spare me…

Still, I could not resist what turned out to be no more than a peek at his touted "portraits of world leaders" on the Today Show this morning; and, given that it was no more than a peek, and at video images at that, I'll confess that I was surprised at the progress he had made.  His portraits of Putin…

(all images in this entry are pirated from public sites online)
... Tony Blair, and his father, George H. W. Bush…


... were not the work of an accomplished portraitist, to be sure, but yet they managed to capture a reasonable likeness of their subjects, and something of their character.  Hand it to W., he has learned a lot in the two years he has been following this pursuit; and to judge from the results, I'd guess he has been guided by a well-qualified teacher, and that he has also looked with a thoughtful eye at the work of other artists.

Kudos to Bush, then, for finding a new passion, along with… well, a curiosity and a sensitivity one might not have suspected.  My social and political judgment was geared to demand something different from a former President of the United States, but what gives me the right to question or belittle another man's choices?   My wiser, more Buddhist self reminds me, rather than to carp, to be glad when another pursues his happiness.

(And even the art critic says begrudgingly, after all, "not bad"!  Adding, perversely and a bit snobbishy, "for an amateur"!)



1 comment:

robin andrea said...

I'm glad you wrote this. I have been feeling the same way about the former president's paintings. I am surprised that he has chosen such a path, and glad for him that he seems to have a some underlying sensitivity about his subjects. I would have never guessed such a thing was possible.