The Painter, George W. Bush

For seven days I was off the grid. Actually I was paying by the minute to the lovely Holland America people trying to get on the grid while work-cruising with 4,400 Ladies of Olivia on their 40th anniversary sea bash. Whenever I did manage to check my email, I didn’t have the minutes to check my bookmarked news sites and to unsubscribe to the great deal on penis enlargers. Spam floats.

Now land-based and in a fugue state of let-down from so much fun, I have been catching up on news I missed. The ship’s daily, condensed New York Times bulletin did not see fit to cover the story of hackers who broke into the Bush family email account. Perhaps they dismissed the hacker’s aspirations sunk to new lows since Julian Assange, as if they were not hackers, but merely hacks.

I agree, but thank them nonetheless for the insight into the so-called mind of George W. Bush who has taken up painting in his retirement. Sadly it is not a jail-time perk for good behavior, but a hobby freely practiced.

Listen, I applaud anyone who develops new interests in retirement, or even anyone who can retire, and I do not criticize his skill. I probably won’t be a great fly-girl dancer when I first retire, but I’ll keep at it. He has been seen on the bluffs at the family compound off the coast of Maine squinting into the sun and daubing at his gesso. W proudly shared two paintings with his sister via email. After seeing them, I just wonder what he was looking at.

One portrait is of him standing bare, muscled back, shaving and looking at himself in a small, steamed, oval vanity mirror above the sink. The other self-portrait is of W in the bathtub. In the long perspective he is Narcissus looking at his legs underwater down to his feet on either side of the faucet. There is no suggestion of any hand-holding with Laura in a ciallis-type companion tub next to his.

Everywhere he looks, he sees himself, serene in simple daily tasks. Invulnerable in that most personal of spaces, the bath. He is a man at peace with himself, free, proud to reveal himself via a pre-twitter primness. Comfortable in his exposed skin. He paints himself looking at his body, full and vital not scarred or severed as so many vets see every morning in their mirrors.

You have had a few more days than I to examine W’s works but I am freshly staggered by what they say and don’t say. I am sure he intended none of it. It is paint by numbers introspection. His work is primitive like Grandma Moses. If she were a war criminal and simpleton.