Who knew? Probably one of the most despised, or at least generally disliked man on the planet, is also a bit of an artist – a kind of neat one at that. His bathroom scenes went viral after a hacker calling himself “Guccifer” exposed several personal emails between the 43rd president and his family, including these two canvas gems.
It is impossible to look at the work and not take into account just who the painter is, or to not psychoanalyze the content when the artist is known for his grave mishandlings. Why, for example, does the water run in both images? How does the space feel cold, dingy and cramped for a man worth over $25 million? The palette is dull and subdued, and in David Hockney style the characters are bulky and feel emotionally removed, existing without being present. The scenes emit an atmosphere of aloneness and self-reflection, and although they seem one-dimensional in their passion they are still rich with despair.
In “Man in Shower”, W’s face is reflected in the shaving mirror, staring right out at us as his squishy back and bushy grey hair stand removed from the shower stream. It’s compositionally impossible, which is perhaps why it’s so interesting, and there is something eerie about his blank surveillance of the viewer. With his back toward the world he is watching us, or maybe we are watching him as voyeurs. He attempts to cleanse himself (did those 122,000 dead Iraqi civilians get to ya’, Georgie?) without standing beneath the facet, looking at himself through the gaze of others.
Similarly in “Man in Bathtub” the water is central to the piece, falling straight down in smoky color. His legs float long and far apart, toes and knees still afloat in a half-full bathtub. The water is clouded and appears used, occupied by a lifeless, or at least motionless pair of legs. What is he contemplating? I bet it’s hard for him to sit in a tub and not think about waterboarding, or for all the other fucked up shit he did in 8 years to not cross his mind in these quiet moments alone.
The subliminal theme of each painting seems to be dirt, and Dubya’s inability to rid himself of all that filth. He is literally “washed-up”, standing dry in the shower and half afloat in a narrow grey-water bathtub. The paintings are forlorn with an air of guilt, as the ex-prez appears dejected and alien in his own body. For having a legacy crafted by war, military brute and domestic neglect he is depicted vulnerable, meek and spiritually deflated. I like seeing him that way.
Contributed by Dean Dempsey.