September 15, 2016
Selected paintings of George W. Bush to be published in “Portraits of Courage”
by Chad Felix
A man stands in a shower, his reflection in a shaving mirror meek-eyed. He skulks just outside the path of the falling water, as if to say, I am still soiled, I must remain dirty—at least until lesson eight, when I am taught to emulate dripping water on orange, doughy skin.
The man cannot see his reflection in the mirror from this dry vantage point. It is impossible! Anyone can tell. But the eyes reflected in that mirror can see us, his onlookers, his critics. They level with us, peering out: you see me as I am, they say. Beige and grey smudges, that is me: here and there, inside this shower basin. But he, that man, he cannot see. That mound of flesh and blood over there, which once ruled the world, smirking among the pashas and kings, choking on the pretzels of decency — it is blind to me still. It is so dirty, and even here, among the cleansing waters of what looks to be a very fancy shower, it is not made clean.
And so he paints.
The man in the shower, former President of the United States George W. Bush, is a serious painter these days. No matter how badly one wishes to learn this again for the first time (we all remember our first time), it is not news today. It’s been over three years since a Romanian hacker known as Guccifer (more from him here) leaked the now-famously bad (read: good) shower painting, alongside a few other bath-time studies.
Dubbya, who paints “in the spirit of friendship,” has been busy since “The Leak.” In April, 2014, the former president received his first solo show, “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Diplomacy” (get it? ART!), which featured portraits of world leaders such as Vladimir Putin, Tony Blair, and the Dalai Lama. It was staged at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, Texas.
Next year, Bush will be releasing Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors, a full-color collection of sixty-six paintings and a four-panel mural depicting military veterans and active-duty soldiers. The book is due February 28, 2017 from the Crown Publishing Group, which notes that the paintings are “of service members and veterans who have served our nation with honor, and whom the President has come to know personally since leaving office.” No self-portraits, then. The book will feature forewords from former first lady Laura Bush and General Peter Pace, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Proceeds from Portraits of Courage will go to the George W. Bush Presidential Center, a non-profit organization whose Military Service Initiative works to ensure that veterans and their families make successful transitions to civilian life, with a focus on gaining meaningful employment and overcoming the invisible wounds of war.
Chad Felix is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.