This article was originally published in The Grape, Oberlin's best and only alternative newspaper.
The artist who formerly employed the pseudonym “The 43rd President of the United States” is having his first art show in April, at an unaffiliated gallery called “The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.”
To give you some fodder for the next dinner party you attend, here are some highlights. A pairing suggestion is to bring up his attention to detail near the charcuterie, and start in on your thoughtful analysis somewhere between your fourth and fifth glass of pinot.
The artist in question was recently quoted saying “There’s a Rembrandt trapped in this body. Your job is to find it.” This poetic and potentially cannibalistic artist has been releasing said Rembrandt through a methodical and Westminster Kennel Club approved task of painting every dog in the vicinity.
For instance, take the beautiful tribute to his dog Barney who recently passed away (full disclosure, this one is kind of shockingly decent). Bush really captures the texture of poor Barney’s coarse fur, the true-to-life greying whiskers, the glossy sheen of his oval eyes, glistening with memories of the oval office.
In another piece from the omnipresent era, “Dogs I saw and painted” a forlorn schnauzer comes to terms with his fleeting dog years. Situated outside the Whitehouse, the schnauzer is separated from his past life by a gate (or prison bars?), perhaps suggesting the artist’s exclusion from his past life. And yet, while this piece could suggest the bittersweet understanding of not being part of the club, the schnauzer defiantly refuses to look through said prison/gate, his whiskered cheek turned away, as if to boldly state “I don’t need you anymore.”
Then of course there is the visually and emotionally confusing portrayal of the corgi and his springer spaniel (maybe) friend. The dogs splay haphazardly and illogically amidst a room of all encompassing beige, the walls seemingly moving in on the dreaming/dead pair. The corgi lies, so contemplative as his two stumpy hind legs seem to float into the wall behind him, his friend lying pensive, ear flopped so quaintly against his pillow. What larger meaning can we garner from this scene? Perhaps it’s a microcosm for the delicate and tiresome nature of friendship? A commentary on marriage and the reality of growing apart? A cautionary tale about the aftermath of spaying/neutering?
Yet perhaps his most moving work come from his deeply introspective series “Bathroom.” The artist brings us into the mundanity of these everyday routines, yet allows us to experience with him these stolen moments alone, the needed time to contemplate life and glimpse into our figurative and literal reflection. “The Bathtub” orients the viewer as Bush himself – looking at our shared, stubby, pale toes submerged in a murky tub. By contrast in “The Shower” we are removed from the artist, seeing him from the back, and yet his worried little face glimpses back at us from a mirror unexplainably pinned just underneath the shower head. In these deeply personal scenes, the artist levels both his own status and ours – making both creator and spectator the same, we all get to be 43. His “reflection” hints at his inherent struggle with the silence that is inherent to bathroom contemplation, perhaps suggesting an discomfort at being alone with his own thoughts.
All in all, this Rembrandt reincarnated has a lot to offer, and the art world waits with giddy anticipation to see what his next work will be. Just remember that there are a lot of forgeries floating around – so make sure it has his “43” signature scrawled in the corner.