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May 8, 2017 | by  | in Books |
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Portraits of Courage — George W. Bush

Bush is back! In a fun way this time. He’s a painter now — processing his guilt? Expressing his repressed ruling class emotions? Attempting to give back? Bored around the house? Who cares? I didn’t. That’s why I own a copy. I had to have it. It’s an object of pure wonder. Once the most powerful man in the Western world, now an enthusiastic portraitist. It’s hard to explain the feeling of acquisitiveness I had, but it was stronger than me.

So, is he any good? Honestly, yeah. He doesn’t suck. His thick strokes of oil paint form a sort of shaky realism, an obviously technical approach guided by artist mentors. The book solely contains portraits of American veterans, all of whom Bush has met personally as Commander-in-Chief. The pieces are contextualised by page-long biographies of the soldiers, specifically detailing their military trajectories. They are presented respectfully and warmly; you may hate his political career, but Bush is not a monster. It would be almost impossible to create that visual glow of humanity with a hand driven by apathy.

Of course, his presidency is flattered by the harsh light of the current leader. It makes a book like this seem closer to quaint than sinister. It’s a thin line. But we err when we pretend that political figures are one-dimensional. Sure, they do multitudes of stupid, or downright malicious, things all the time. Regardless, think complexly. Learn all that you can about everything that you can. Think about people as people, not as cartoons. Which I think is what Bush may be trying to do when he paints. But that’s too much of an assumption, even though it’s nicely poetic. All I’m saying is, art is revealing, and I think that here it revealed the once-President of the United States just a little more than before.

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