Italy had DaVinci. Spain (and Paris) had Picasso. America has George W. Bush. (Or, George W. Brush, as my sister likes to call him. Get it… because paint brush…)
Van Get out of here!, you may be thinking. But what follows will be an extensive analysis of a portion of the former president’s oeuvre- an analysis that will prove that the American Renaissance has found its Michelangelo.
One final thought to my prelude. GWB is basically that pothead cousin of yours the perform awkward, original songs at parties, except, you know, that he was president. I bet at family gatherings now Nana and Papa Bush roll their eyes at George because he’s wasting his talents on art instead of chasing a practical dream. However, haven’t hardworking Americans been mining coal and building the railroads for three centuries so that they could have that weird artsy descendent? Rock on, GWB.
An Analysis: Hot Dog!
The general public hasn’t been talking about a dog this much since “Marley and Me” came out in 2008! Now, 6 years later, there’s a new canine star on the market: and these little guys won’t break our hearts by getting run over by a car. They’re paintings, by none other than George W. Bush: 41st president of the U.S.A., retiree and proud animal-lover.
I imagine these pieces are titled something like “In Dog We Trust” (Figure 1, left dog) and “Dog-claration of Independence” (Figure 2, right dog), and I will analyze them as a pair. The first thing we notice as we gaze upon these works is the color, that blue background that immediately captures our attention. So bright and shiny! We are like bugs attracted to a light. We can’t look away. GWB has a special relationship with this shade of blue (blue IS one-third of the American flag, after all!), as is obvious by looking at this picture as a whole. Blue shirt, blue vases, blue crab, blue dogs… blue is historically a calming color. What we can interpret from this, cool, bold color choice is that GWB really is cool, laid back dude. He probably likes barbecues and beers with his buds, and sunny picnics at the (dog) park, and plaid short/ old jeans ensembles. We never got to see this side of him when he was president. Now we’re like Elizabeth from “Pride and Prejudice,” and GWB is our Mr. Darcy. I imagine how we feel as we read his paintings is like how Ms. Bennet felt as she read Colin Firth’s famously beautiful letter. Maybe we HAVE misjudged!
The next element I would like to consider is SHADOW and CONTRAST. This is where Figure 1 and Figure 2 differ. Figure 1 has a deep, dark shadow, and Figure 2’s shadow is less noticeable. What is the significance of this, you may ask. If you really think about shadow, you realize that paintings with lots of shadow often seem more dramatic. Think Caravaggio v. Monet. GWB must have had this in mind when he created these two dogs; he wanted to differentiate them and make a statement! It is a very appropriate statement for a politician to make. There is a dark, dramatic, controversial side to politics and a light, friendly side. Two halves of the same politician. This is deep s***, GWB. You are acknowledging that you’ve made some controversial decisions. That takes guts.
The final element I would like to mention is: SUBJECT. GWB takes us back to Dutch Realism. He could have easily gone the “Rich-Ass, Hierarchal, British Monarch” route, because he has money, but he didn’t do that. He chose a simple, domestic subject for these paintings instead of something glamourous that shows crowds of people at fancy events. So Vermeer of you, GWB! No Napolean-esque coronations for Bush! This takes us back to my plaid shirt/ old jeans analysis.
All of this is to say, I sincerely can’t wait to visit the White House a few years from now and see a line of somber presidential portraits interrupted by a colorful, blue dog where President #41 should be.
All personal politics aside, it is obvious that GWB has gotten some reviews that are more jokes than serious opinion. And some of these jokes are pretty hilarious. But let’s not forget that even though it may seem ridiculous that a former Republican president is dabbling with the arts, it’s a great hobby and he’s not half-bad. These aren’t no amateur sketches! Plus, he’s gotten everybody talking about his work with is impressive in itself.
Maybe GWB will start a presidential trend! Tomorrow Clinton will announce that he’s really getting into his crime novel series (“Who Had Sexual Relations With That Woman?: A Mystery Novel”), and Barack will be all Bach Obama in 20 years.
I look forward to it.