Every presidency leaves its marks on history. For George W. Bush, these marks now include an immortalization by one of the most celebrated painters in the world, Fernando Botero — but the memories immortalized may not be the ones the president wants remembered.
Highlighting the human rights abuses and acts of torture committed under Bush, an exhibition of 50 paintings by Botero will open June 16th at the Palazzo Venezia in Rome. The exhibit focuses on the horrors of the Abu Ghraib prison, and marks a new theme for Botero’s work, including his famous “gordos”, which has previously been shown in museums and galleries from New York to Paris.
Colombia’s “Diners Magazine“, in a worldwide exclusive, recently reproduced samples of Botero’s latest exhibit . Therein, readers can experience, in Botero’s inimitable style, the images that have made up one of the most shameful, cruel, and inhuman episodes of Bush’s regime, and of United States military history: the base humiliation and torture of countless Iraqis, guilty of nothing more than occupying the wrong space at the wrong time. These images will doubtless join the collective human psyche, adding another layer to the strata of man’s inhumanity to man, joining previous chapters, from the Spanish Inquisition to the concentration camps of Nazi Germany.
Through the smoke and mirrors of the neo-conservative ideology, what was once regarded by some as “the foremost democracy on earth” has been made into the foremost representation of torture in our time, and been captured by Botero’s brushes, exemplifying on canvas how quickly the thin layers of civilization can be peeled away to reveal emotions and motives so recently believed to have no place in our modern world.
But Botero is not the first world-class artist to denounce the injustices of his time by way of brush-strokes. Francisco JosÈ de Goya depicted Napoleonic massacres and Inquisitorial horrors of the 19th century, and Pablo Picasso showed the world the horrors of war crimes in Guernica, through his work by the same name denouncing Francisco Franco’s nod to the Nazis, who bombed it to ruins in 1937.
Following this honorable tradition of artists compelled to keep the unsavory aspects of their era from fading out of mind, Botero has proven that, from Medellin to Baghdad, he is quite capable of reflecting the full range of human nature, from the most noble to the most abominable. Ironically, it was Bush himself who once stated “The true history of my administration will be written 50 years from now, and you and I will not be around to see it.” But for you, the reader, there’s good news: you won’t have to wait 50 years to see the history of this administration. Should you show up on a certain date in June, at a particular art exhibit in Rome, you’ll be able to see its history painted in full color, with its acts exposed for all the world to judge. It has been painted on history’s wall of shame, so that we may never forget that those who would call themselves our benefactors can sometimes be the cruelest of all.