FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

That Bigger Canvas

by

George W. Bush’s body of work, “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy”, opened Saturday at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum at Southern Methodist University. The exhibit includes paintings of world leaders as well as Bush in the bath.

There are vistas here to explore, disrobe, and disassemble. The title of the show, using the word “Art”, actually, “Art” obligated by a preposition to “Leadership”, is stunning artifice. And then there’s “Diplomacy”, NEVER valued by the man with the feigned good-ole-boy patois who spoke to his base of wealthy donors with prep school and Yale elitism. The creepy hypocrisy of that title is enough to fry synapses. Plus, it’s impossible to look at the portrayals without being assaulted by Bush’s OTHER body of work, that bigger canvas of bodies—dead bodies, Afghan, Iraqi, children, troops, and then the tortured at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, Bagram, Kandaha, Gardez, Khost, Orgun, Ghazni, and Jalalabad.

Let’s be clear. You can appreciate art without admiring the artist. Cue Jerry Saltz, senior art critic for New York magazine. He considered Bush “a Gremlin on the wing of America” when Bush was occupying the White House—you know, that eight-year tenure when God told Bush to blow up brown people—but Saltz pronounced George W.’s paintings “good” while constructively suggesting the former president not just work from a photograph but also employ his imagination. Now there’s something the 9/11 Commission found lacking. Remember, the events of September 11 were attributed to a failure of imagination.

Anyway, I’ve seen oodles of art like Bush’s. Comes with being a mommy. “Sure, honey, it’s okay to ask a few of our neighbors if they’d like to purchase those for a quarter a piece. You’ve done the lemonade stand.” I think this particular son was six or seven when he went door-to-door in Nashville, scrounging for change.

Truth is, art’s subjective and in the eye of the beholder. One wo-man’s perception of talent is another wo-man’s perception of trash, but you can evaluate ability, judge it un-wall-worthy, comment that it’s as amateurish as paint by number, color by number, be astonished that it merits a show, and yet acknowledge that you like the smear-er of the medium, appreciate something about his or her personality. Or, or, or…

Maybe you simply make an association. An example: John Wayne Gacy, the “Killer Clown”.

Gacy was a mass murder, like George W. Bush. Clowned around, like Bush. Painted. Yeah, like Bush. Painted clowns. Gacy’s self-portrait is Goodbye Pogo, a clown. His clown costume was a mask, concealing a monster. Bush, nude in the shower or clothed, is a monster. The pals he painted, those who participated in destroying a culture and unleashing DNA-altering weapons in the Middle East, wear their own masks—power suited up for invade and incinerate.

I Google’d Gacy’s artwork and recoiled. Just as I recoiled when I saw Bush’s crude executions. John W. Gacy was convicted for committing 33 murders. George W. Bush remains at large, unaccountable. He should be painting that genre called prison art.

Addendum: Just in from an e-pal—according to Oliver Milman, a reporter at theguardian.com, Bush searched Google for photos of his subjects, mostly using Wikipedia.

Missy Comley Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Baltimore. Email: missybeat@gmail.com.

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sandes Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Honduras Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Gilbert Mercier
Donald Trump: Caligula of the Lowest Common Denominator Empire?
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Robert Dodge
On President Obama’s Hiroshima Visit
Andrew Moss
Bridge to Wellbeing?
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
May 26, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts
The Looting Stage of Capitalism: Germany’s Assault on the IMF
Pepe Escobar
Hillary Clinton: A Major Gold-Digging Liability
Sam Pizzigati
America’s Cosmic Tax Gap
Ramzy Baroud
Time to End the ‘Hasbara’: Palestinian Media and the Search for a Common Story
José L. Flores
Wall Street’s New Man in Brazil: The Forces Behind Dilma Rousseff’s Impeachment
Patrick Cockburn
The Battle of Fallujah: ISIS Unleashes Its Death Squads
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail