I don’t know about you, but ever since images of George W. Bush’s paintings leaked onto web in early 2013, I’ve been dying to get a look at them in person. They’re incredibly intriguing, not so much as works of art, but in what they may reveal about the man who painted them. There are portraits of pets, snapshot-like landscapes of Texas and Maine, and even melancholic self-portraits of the former president naked in the shower. The style is clumsy and labored, but in a way that feels attentive and earnest. The subject matter banal, but also suggestive and vulnerable. Some presidents use their post-presidential time to raise money for charities or piece together global initiatives. That the president of macho American interventionism chose such a reclusive, reflective hobby is curious indeed. As New York mag’s art critic Jerry Saltz wrote, Bush’s paintings:
are pictures of someone dissembling without knowing it, unprotected and on display, but split between the promptings of his own inner drives and limited by his abilities. They reflect the pleasures of disinterestedness. A floater. Inert. The images of a man who saw the entire world from the inside but who finds the smallest, most private place in a private home to imagine his universe.
Consider that a teaser, because here’s the big news: The George W. Bush Presidential Center is going to give the presidential artist his own exhibition this April, part of the exhibition Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy.