It’s 2016. A former reality TV star is running for president of the United States. And a former president is pursuing a post-career life as an artist. What a time to be alive.
George W. Bush, who has previously surprised many a viewer with his paintings of puppies, kitties, Putin, and his near-naked body, has recently turned his attention to America’s veterans. His upcoming book, Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors, will feature 66 portraits of men and women who have served in the military since 9/11.
Bush’s new art endeavor, which he billed as “more than an art book,” is meant to bridge the gap in understanding between civilian and military, illuminating the many issues veterans face when they return home from service. To supplement each portrait, Bush wrote a story explaining the subject’s experiences with war and civilian life.
The subject matter is a serious one. But as Carey Dunne wrote on Hyperallergic, there are certain politically relevant themes glaringly absent from Bush’s latest portfolio. For example, “paintings of prisoners held without trial at Guantanamo Bay, paintings of the millions of Americans who lost their homes during the 2008 financial crisis, or paintings of ‘the ghost of the Iraqi child that follows him everywhere.’”
Art critics can be harsh.
An exhibition of Bush’s original paintings will be on view starting March 2, 2017, at Dallas’ George W. Bush Presidential Center. All proceeds from the book will benefit the center, a non-profit organization whose Military Service Initiative is focused on helping post-9/11 veterans.
Portraits of Courage will be published by Crown on Feb. 28, 2017.
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