Who Is That Man In the Mirror?

PictureThis is my latest piece for the Red Wedge Magazine. Its bit of a satire review of George W. Bush’s leaked paintings. Enjoy.

What is it to live? Does it mean to suffer, to make mistakes, to age? To launch a global war for empire and oil that costs the lives of millions?

These are the thoughts that came to me when I saw the leaked pictures of paintings made by ex-president George W. Bush. The hacker who made these pictures available has done all lovers of art, politics, and I would say the American people as whole, a great service. For it is now we get to look deep into the mind, and I would say even the soul, of the 43rd President of the United States.

For this review I only wish to focus on one self-portrait by Bush, a watercolor of him in the shower. For this one I feel is the most poignant. In this work of Bush’s we see him nude in shower, facing a small mirror below the showerhead as the water is running.

The first thing to notice is the tiles in the background. While a mainstream painter would attempt to draw straight lines of tiles roughly corresponding to their real life size and shape, Bush has boldly decided to paint his bathroom tiles at eschew and random angels, as if no thought had gone into them at all. The pallet is a skillful use of as many as two, possibly even three, shades of the same five colors. For shading is so important to the meaning of this composition, as a dark shadow hangs over the mirror in which we see the tiny face of Bush.

What does he see in that mirror? What do we all see in mirrors? The past or the present. At what point do you no longer recognize the person looking back at you, the marks of age and worry carving their passage into your face. Two full terms as president have left their mark. Or maybe he is looking behind him – this ambiguity brilliantly depicted through Bush’s poor depiction of his own face and eyes – at all the terrible things in his past. All the death and destruction, the terrible mistakes and idiotic things he has said and done.

Is that why Bush is in the shower? The shower here is a clear allegory for a baptism, a cleansing of all of his many sins. All the torture, wire-tapping, Katrina, the Iraq War, everything every member of his cabinet ever did. He desperately just wants it all to be washed away. I feel Bush is making allusions to Lady Macbeth in this piece, who was driven mad trying to wash the blood from her hands that only she could see.

But this is even deeper then that, yes, deeper then Shakespeare. For he’s scared. Bush has depicted himself as not actually under the showerhead, but slightly to the right of the falling water. Between him and his past is his chance at purity, but he can’t yet let go. Somewhere along the lines everything went terribly wrong, and despite rising to being the most powerful person in the world, his life was a failure. Yet he’s not ready yet to admit it.

These are the concerns that weigh upon his broad shoulders – some might say bizarrely broad as he depicts himself with tiny arms yet wide shoulders and armpits that begin about a foot and a half below the collar bone, looking almost like a penguin – of this old, tired man.

Or maybe this is just a crappy watercolor by a has-bin scumbag who has been rejected by all of America and his own political party and now has too much free time on his hands.

Either way.

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About redpleb

I'm a socialist, an activist, a worker and an all around troublemaker here in New Jersey. You can find me on twitter @RedPleb
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