I saw George W promoting his book of portraits of veterans on Jimmy Kimmel, and even though he works from photographs, which do more than half the work, I have to say that I like them. I like them a lot. They are fresh, lively, free spirited, colorful, imaginative, fluid, even fun, with a certain flair, and a very nice sense of timing and of the whole. He actually has a good eye.
I think it is hard for people to admit that. I tried writing about his portraits once before and had to pull it for political reasons. But that is wrong. Frankly as much grief as it will cost me, I like to keep politics out of art. I like to think that most of the time art is, if not above politics, separate.
I didn't vote for W, and although we are very distant cousins on my father's side and his mother's(somewhere I have a picture of the two of them together), I pretty much disagree with everything he stood for as president. But...I like his paintings. Go figure.
The irony is that his people can't appreciate his paintings, they are not about skill and show little, and my people can't ever forgive him or stomach him or see the paintings with unclouded eyes, so he is kind of a painter without a country. I saw Charlie Rose, who must have less aesthetic sensibility than a doorstop, belittle him about it, and he didn't get any love from Kimmel either. So no love for George and his paintings. Strange karma indeed.
Portraits are interesting for all sorts of reasons. For one, they are about real people, and all that comes with that: hope and fear and love and suffering and honor and frailty and strength and dignity and loss and inner light and soul and so on. George's have that. They are less about appearance or verisimilitude. They have personality, and they capture something of their subjects on the fly. They also, and this is the difference maker, act and feel like paintings. So many portraits don't. They act and feel more like doorstops, which I guess explains Charlie Rose.
There is so much to be said for being untrained. Unfettered. Unanalyzed. Uncritiqued. Unburdened. Not bullied by art teachers through years of schooling. Never told no. Just curiosity and possibilities, pulled by the slipstream that is the wonder of life. A place every painter seeks to but rarely achieves. Tabula rasa. New eyes. New day. Lucky George.
So who knows, maybe one day curious George W Bush will be known more as a painter than a president(what if he had discovered painting first!). No harm in wondering about that, but then again, that's just me.
March 4th, 2017