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Here Are Some Things We’d Like to See George W. Bush Paint

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The unlikely saga of one of America’s most divisive presidents reinventing himself as one of its most charming hobbyist painters received a new wrinkle last week, when George W. Bush’s collection of portraits of world leaders received its first museum opening. 

To be fair, Bush’s paintings debuted at a museum bearing his name, an asset that few artists who take up the brush as a late-in-life hobby possess—but while the reviews of the work have been mixed, there is something endlessly fascinating about the fact that, six years after leaving office, Bush has chosen to pursue art and self-expression, and is so proud of his work that he’s exhibiting it to a world (that is keen to call it “vacant” and “servile.”) At the very least, if one had to guess in 2008 what role the ex-president would have chosen for himself in his retirement, whoever took “painter” in the office pool would have cleaned up on the long-odds bet. 

To date, Bush’s paintings have been unleashed in three waves. A little over a year ago, the first batch of paintings emerged, taken from hacked emails sent by the former president’s daughters. These images included many paintings of housepets, as well as a nude self-portrait of himself in the bathroom that, Bush told the Today show, he painted to “shock” his instructor. Late in the year, meanwhile, he opted to take pride in his work, releasing a painting of a cardinal on an ornament available for purchase by enthusiasts of his art career (and presenting Jay Leno with a portrait during an appearance on his show). And then, last week, his “Art Of Leadership” series was unveiled to a waiting world. All of which leaves us wondering: What should George W. Bush paint next? In the hope that he perhaps looks to the Daily Post for inspiration, we’d like to offer some suggestions.

A Series Of Action Shots Of His Favorite Texas Rangers Ballplayers

Bush—as documented in stories about the man and speculated upon in Oliver Stone’s biopic W.—adores baseball, and while portraiture seems to be his primary mode of expression at the moment, capturing some of the great moments and figures in Rangers history might be a fun way for him to stretch his wings. One of the primary criticisms of Bush’s portraits are that they reveal very little about the man, and the challenges of making a statement in a series of nothing but head-on portraits might be beyond a relative newcomer to the art world like the former president at this point in his development. So why not attempt some work that captures the drama of the game he loves? As a political leader, Bush’s legacy will forever be defined by his identity as a wartime president—what could we learn about the way he views combat and violence if he opted to depict the infamous fight between Nolan Ryan and Robin Ventura with his brush? Who would Bush identify as the aggressor?

Pictures Of Your Dogs And Cats

One of Bush’s early inspirations for his work were cats and dogs, which makes sense—during his time in the White House, the Bushes had four different presidential pets. And his release of the ornament for sale (as well as the subsequent book collecting his portraits of world leaders) revealed an entrepreneurial side that mixed his ambitions as an artist with his love of commerce. So why not take it a step further and allow fans of his art to commission the former president to paint pictures of their cats and dogs? One has few opportunities to hire someone like George W. Bush to do anything for them, and he could probably charge a boatload for the paintings. Part of the reason that people have been so surprised by Bush’s foray into painting is that, frankly, he never seemed like an artistic soul—it would make a lot more sense if he balanced his fine art ambitions with a foray into commercial work. 

Portraits Of His Favorite Political Philosopher

Interestingly, despite both the long tradition of religious art and Bush’s own fervently-claimed beliefs, none of the work he’s released to the public thus far has a Christian bent to it. During a Presidential Primary debate in 2000, Bush described Jesus Christ as his favorite political philosopher—an answer that confused many. He could answer some lingering questions—and presumably delight fans of his work—by offering some insight into what exactly he meant by that with his brush.

Depictions of the People He Gave Nicknames to as Those Nicknames

An element of Bush’s leadership style that’s long been remarked upon was his tendency to bestow upon his friends and associates nicknames—some of which were flattering, some of which were less so. This fascinating Wikipedia article details a full list of nicknames that he used for the people in his life. Top advisor Karl Rove, for instance, was “Turd Blossom,” an unflattering nickname for the man that others called “Bush’s Brain.” But what did Bush see when he looked at Rove and saw “Turd Blossom”? It’s a question that one can’t really ever expect an answer to—unless, of course, the person who gave those nicknames embarks on a post-retirement career as a painter, in which case we have the opportunity for unique insight. He called Vladimir Putin “Pooty Poot,” disgraced FEMA director Michael Brown “Brownie,” Congressman Barney Frank “Sabertooth,” and a number of different reporters “Stretch.” If he wants to stick with portraiture, Bush could tell us a lot about the way he saw the people in his life if he gave us a depiction of Vice President Cheney as “Big Time.” 

(AP Photo/Benny Snyder)

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  • Discerning Reader

    I’m sure this is a lovely article, but I couldn’t get past “…a museum BARING his name…”