Idiocy In Art and Politics

Abby Zimet

What Bush should have painted, but didn't

Jesus. George Bush is painting now. Today marks the opening of an exhibit of two dozen clumsy portraits of world leaders - "Bush's little paintings" - at his presidential library in Dallas in a show dubbed "The Art of Leadership: A President's Personal Diplomacy." W is all excited, he told his daughter in an interview on NBC's "Today Show:" "I think they're going to be (like), 'Wow, George Bush is a painter." It's unclear which is more sickening: To read this drivel, or see the unironic, fawning coverage from the likes of CNN, which reports the paintings "reveal his softer side." Just kill us now. Thankfully, others are more astute about the "botched certainty" of these and earlier "treacly vacant scenes" and "empty-headed daubs" that reveal only a frightening "failure to grasp reality," with one critic likening it all to "being nice about the family idiot's latest art project: Aw, isn't that sweet, poor George has done paintings of world leaders. He's putting them in his little museum." He goes on, "Idiocy in art has its charms. In the man who ran the free world into bloodstained buffers, those charms quickly sour...This is the art of Forrest Gump." Best is a grimly hilarious series of faux torture portraits presented last year in Vanity Fair by Bruce Handy, a scathing analysis of "art of the torture and terrorism school," and a suitably savage account in The Guardian of the paintings' "counterfeit studio banality" and the way they reflect Bush's "nightmare presidency," beginning with, "Many good artists do bad things.... So just because a painter has - for example - the blood of up to 136,012 dead Iraqis on his hands does not, in itself, prove that he lacks talent."

Thus: "Their vacancy, their stubborn refusal to offer anything beyond this: both the painting and the policy reflect a man untroubled by outside judgment, certain beyond any doubt of his rectitude and self-worth....We know how that turned out. One imagines that the excitement over Bush’s paintings forms part of a desperate national hunger for expiation from the unforgivable crime of his presidency, as if translating Bush into a sweet retiree at his easel will erase the illegal war, the obscene economic policy, the environmental spoliation, the executive power grab, the drowning of New Orleans. It is not to be. Bush’s little paintings will be forgotten, churned like a million other images through an unceasing news cycle and replaced tomorrow by a pop star’s accidental nudity or the 17 cutest animal pictures of all time. The Bush presidency, by contrast, endures all around us – and as we feel our way through the collapsing plutocracy he has bequeathed to us, we will need more than these wan portraits to ease the pain."

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