A Portrait of the Artist as a Man of Decent Hygiene

It appears that the Bush Family (yes, that one) got hacked recently, causing several personal emails and pictures to come floating out where people can see them. I don’t endorse this kind of thing, myself. I think everyone should be entitled to some privacy. However, I can’t resist commenting on the two works of the hand of former president George W. Bush because there’s something so solitary and bath-centered about them.

I’ve tried not to read other art criticism regarding the pieces because I like to keep my impressions fresh, and I’m sure there will be no small amount of speculation over the subliminal “coming clean” motif due to the pictures both involving Bush in the state of, well, becoming clean. It should be noted that as these are self-portraits, one might expect the painting to reveal something about the artist—I don’t know that it does. The bath portrait reveals legs mostly submerged in water.  The shower portrait is more oddly composed, giving the viewer the perspective of gazing over the subject’s shoulder, yet being able to glimpse his face at an odd angle in the reflection of a shaving mirror. It is hard to refrain from speculating about what this says regarding the psychological state of the artist, himself.  I will note that the bathroom is the one place where people can find themselves truly alone, the bath or shower where one finds oneself naked. It is a place where one performs daily rituals of hygiene, but it is also a place of vulnerability.

But the choice of the bath or shower for the settings of Bush’s self-portraits could also mean no more than that, in retirement, he’s simply taking a heck of a lot more showers and baths. He has the time to be clean now.  The inner self of the artist remains a puzzle. If it exists, at all.

I’m sure our Roasters can derive more insight into what is here than I have, however, so I’ll leave it to you.

Posted by Vixen Strangely on 02/08/13 at 11:45 PM • Permalink

Categories: I Don't Know Much About Art, But I Know What I LikeImagesMessylaneousPoliticsBqhatevwrBushCo

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Looks like he’s better at paintin’ than presidentin’.

Definitely Outsider Art . . .

Homo-erotic tease?

he shoulda used a roller.

Something Freudian about self-portraits where in one his back is turned and in the other only his legs are showing.

But it may be just that he hasn’t mastered painting faces yet.

But the choice of the bath or shower for the settings of Bush’s self-portraits could also mean no more than that, in retirement, he’s simply taking a heck of a lot more showers and baths. He has the time to be clean now.

I imagine the stench of death still clings to him, no matter how hard he scrubs.  I’d make a “Lady MacBeth” joke, but I have no wish to perpetuate the calumny

He actually does a good job or rendering water. I wouldn’t judge the painting harshly. He’s an amateur.

W. has always struck me as a tragic character. It looks to me like he never really wanted to be what he was, which is what made him such an easily manipulated tool for the neocons, because they promised to make him something great. Look how that turned out.

He may actually want to be just a guy in a bathtub, now, but he can’t be. Not being POTUS doesn’t nullify what he did. It never will. The dye is cast. His wrongs can hardly be compensated for, much less undone.

He is a failure. And a monster.

As an artist, I hesitate to comment but these threads keep coming…

What GWB makes is not really art-it is art “occupational therapy”. I suspect it is not even art therapy.  I have seen these image subjects in several mutations though out my years teaching. No particular visual awareness or insightful communicative risk-taking is in evidence. Just a man with time on his hands. Sadly, a man who has been “awarded” extra-ordininary circumstances in life but has failed to nurture and develop the skills and intelligence those circumstances needed.

He did “choose” to paint himself in the nude… twice.
Picture it: he’s standing in the shower and looking at himself in the shaving mirror. He decides that he wants to make a painting of this moment. It’s intentional. Important to him. The scene is both primal and naive. The tiny image of his face, head on, seems quite revealing. I find myself thinking of the famous Haitian painting (not a self portrait) of Papa Doc Duvalier in a wedding dress.

If only that art school in Vienna had accepted him….

What is the point of view in the shower picture?  Who is looking in the mirror?  How did the artist envision his own back?  It’s a strange, splintered mental state.  It could be a coy reference to that Bar at the Folies Bergere by Manet or another example by Renoir that I can’t quite come up with. 
Some of the draftsman-like and geometric issues are interesting, but the color is rather ham-handed, and the treatment of the body is rather poor.  Not bad at all for a dabbler, but of no real distinction.

If only that art school in Vienna had accepted him….

Microdot, you made my morning. Without a doubt, the best ever Godwinism evuh.

They also reflect the total “self-absorption” of the man. He doesn’t paint anything “outside” of himself, but is focused only on himself.  Nothing else exists in the Bushie world but himself.

He can’t take enough showers or baths to wash the blood of needlessly killed people off him…

Seeing him in a plexi cage at the Hague would be pure pleasure. Him and Cheney.

The portrait of the recently deceased Barney was done well, I thought.

@JoyfulA—This is true! It might be presuming a lot, but it might say something for his being more attuned to the subject matter when painting a beloved pet, then when trying to get down to a portrait that accurately reveals anything of himself. I don’t think he’s without skills (he’s not trained/practiced), but I think the self-portraits, leaving aside the bad perspective and inaccurate angles which I think come as much as anything from not understanding that it takes time to do painting accurately, lack care of detail. The simplest brushstrokes on the portrait of Barney, however, show care. The direction of fur, the gloss on the coat look like he worked from a photograph, carefully and over time.

I think there is something therapeutic in painting for him. Taking time, getting things right, attention to detail—I think there are transferrable values from practicing art to most anything, really.

Anyone else remember that one of W’s former chiefs of staff collects photos of Bush’s hands?

WASHINGTON — As Joshua Bolten officially moves into the White House chief of staff’s office today, he’ll bring with him a collection of photos of President Bush — or, rather, of Bush’s hands.

The close-ups show Bush’s hands at key moments: Signing the No Child Left Behind education bill. Holding the badge of a Port Authority officer slain on 9/11. Throwing out the first pitch of a 2001 World Series game at Yankee Stadium.

So I guess there’s a market for this stuff.

There is definitely a Lady Macbethish, trying to wash his hands, motif in these two pieces.  But maybe I’m allotting intelligence and insight to Shrub that just isn’t there.  Yeah, that’s probably more like it.

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