George W. Bush's Paintings Were Copied From Google Images — But At Least George Knows How To Google, Eh?
Odds are, by now you've seen and heard that former President George W. Bush has started painting. But you may not have noticed this: 24 of his portraits of other world leaders, — now on display at his presidential library in Texas, appear to be based wholly on Google Image searches. Not even a trenchant or in-depth search, either, with many of the portraits seemingly based on the first passable headshot presented.
This is peculiar, given the rarified air which Bush occupies as formerly the world's most powerful man. As art critic Greg Allen notes, in a blog post pointing out Bush's reliance on the internet, he could probably do a lot better. Almost every public appearance for eight years, including those made with foreign leaders, was exhaustively documented by professional photographers.
One could reasonably imagine that the bar to getting his hands on unique, perhaps more meaningful images was pretty low. But nonetheless, it seems that Bush eschewed the personal touch, allured by the siren song of convenience.
The exhibit, which opened Saturday, is titled Art of Diplomacy, and features some vague quotes on the walls stressing, rather suggestively, that Bush was all for diplomacy — whatever you might recall to the contrary.
For instance: "The best diplomacy starts with getting to know each other." Or, "I was a big believer then, and still am, that personal diplomacy can be very useful and productive."
At this point, it seems like any public figure-turned-painter should expect to get busted if they resort to this method. To that extent, Bush has one thing unenviably in common with another deeply polarizing figure — George Zimmerman, the acquitted killer of Florida teen Trayvon Martin, who was hit with a cease-and-desist from the AP over his use of their photos.
The exhibit has drawn some attention from art critics, as well. Deborah Solomon, speaking to HuffPost Live, also highlighted the likelihood that Bush is simply projecting photos and painting over them — which would technically be considered "tracing." While Solomon stresses this is a legitimate artistic method, she also deemed the work "very simple-minded."
Roberta Smith, critic for The New York Times, however, was considerably more generous:
Mr. Bush has an uncanny ability to translate photographs into more awkward images enlivened by distortions and slightly ham-handed brushwork. His skill may be disconcerting for people who love painting and dislike the former president, but still, everyone needs to get a grip, especially those in the art world who dismiss the paintings without even seeing them.
Image: The Bush Center/Flickr