Artists, Writers, Creative People who were enlisted in the US Military Under the Command of George W Bush:
We are seeking your original portraits of George W. Bush in response to the recent release of his best-selling book, Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors. All media welcome.
How to Participate
Read the information below. If the project sounds like something you would like to participate in, please register at the bottom of this page as soon as possible. Due to a high level of interest, submissions will continue to be collected until further notice. With enough quality participation, we will have a well-curated website of images, a published book, and eventually be able to exhibit work.
This year, George W. Bush released a book of portraits he painted of veterans, along with information about their deployment history and their journey toward healing. The book immediately became a bestseller.
As veterans, our identities are frequently articulated by people outside of our experience, such as filmmakers, politicians, and journalists. The nuances of our identities are lost in a flattened stereotype. Our experiences with war and even with healing often serve as spectacle for voyeuristic outsiders.
Bush is simultaneously one of the closest and farthest people from the post-911 veteran experience. He has always been in a position to articulate who we are and what we do, but we are rarely afforded the same platform. If this is truly one of the most complex relationships between artist and subject in recent memory, surely we should have a voice.
We are creating reflections on our own relationships to the former President, rather than reactions.
Background - The Launch of Bush’s Painting Career
In 2012, a Romanian Hacker known as Guccifer leaked images of George Bush’s paintings on the Internet. The first images released to the world were self portraits of Bush in the bath and shower which he sent to his sister. Because of the candid nature of the paintings, they were quickly shared via the internet and social media. Both the private moment in the shower as well as a glimpse of Bush’s private hobby offered a rare, insider's look to the public.
While Guccifer was being arrested and held in prison, Bush’s paintings began to create a buzz in the art world He undertook a year long project painting portraits of veterans he has met in person through the George W. Bush Center’s Military Service Initiative. The images are painted not from live modeling sessions with the veterans, but from everyday photos. The 66 portraits and panel paintings feature the images of 98 veterans who were in the military while Bush was president. Each includes Bush’s own articulation of their military service and struggle with physical or psychological injuries, or both.
This past March the images - currently on display at the George. W. Bush Presidential Center in Texas - were released in a book, which immediately became a bestseller. About one year prior to the release of the book Guccifer was sentenced to 4 years in federal prison. The wars that Bush began in Iraq and Afghanistan continue today. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed and the regions are littered with toxic waste from US munitions. Those of us who deployed are, in many ways still discovering the ways in which the wars have impacted us.
Looking - who is permitted to look at whom? How is this related to power and authority? What is your experience with being looked at in the military or as a veteran? What does it mean to look back?
Intimacy and voyeurism - voyeurism is the (often erotic) spectatorship of an intimate or private moment without the permission or consent of the person who is being viewed. How is this related to portraiture? To Bush’s self portraits? To the images released through the Marines United Facebook scandal? To society’s consumption of violent war imagery?
Gesture - What does it mean to make a gesture artistically, politically, socially? How does your piece reflect this?
Self definition and agency - In what way does this project give you the ability to define your own thoughts on your experiences with war and healing?
Absences - it can be argued that the information missing from someone’s work says as much is what is present. What is missing from Bush’s articulation of veterans? Of the wars? What would you make present that Bush did not? What is present that you would make absent in your own portrait?
Reflection - Reflection can mean a meditative thought process. It can also apply to a mirror, which uses light to show the viewer a representation of themself.
Each artist should create one original portrait of George W. Bush. Typically a portrait features the face with a focus on expression. Intimacy or lack thereof is often expressed through the closeness or distance of the subject to the viewer. Power relationships are implied/created/subverted when careful attention is paid to the gaze of the viewer and whether and how the gaze of the subject is returned.
While keeping this in mind, artists are invited to challenge the traditional idea of portraiture in their pieces.
No artist statements.
- Due to increased interest, submissions will be open on a rolling basis until further notice.
- Please make all submissions via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- All media is permitted so long as the final product can be submitted digitally. For example, 3D work may be submitted in the form a photo. 2D work should be scanned if possible, or photographed if necessary. Poetry and other text or mixed media are also welcome.
- All submissions should be in PDF or JPEG format, no less than 300 dpi, and fit onto an 8.5 x 11 page with a one inch margin (3000 x 2250 px = 10 x 7.5")
Fill out the form below.