All good art is political, said writer Toni Morrison, but this is perhaps truer when the art is produced by a former president.
Immigration is the political issue at the heart of an upcoming George W. Bush portrait book.
Out of Many, One – to be released March 2 – features 43 portraits of immigrants painted by the 43rd US President.
He hopes this will draw attention to the “positive impacts” of immigration.
Mr. Bush writes in the book’s introduction that immigration is an issue that has sowed deep divisions between parties, but it is a very American subject within it.
“I reject the premise that this is a partisan issue,” he said. “It should be the one that unites us. ”
“I hope this book will help focus our collective attention on the positive effects immigrants have on our country,” he says.
The book derives its title from the motto on the American seal. Along with the portraits, it will include accompanying essays on individuals written by Mr. Bush.
A portion of the proceeds from the book will go to organizations that help immigrants resettle, according to the George W Bush Presidential Center. An exhibit on “The Value of Immigrants in America” that features these portraits will also open in downtown Dallas in March.
Mr. Bush noted that he did not want the book to be published during election season. He has so far not endorsed either President Donald Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden.
This is not the first time that Mr. Bush, a Republican, has expressed his support for immigrants. In 2018, amid a nationwide discussion of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy and border detentions of migrants, Bush said he was “disturbed” by the debate.
- Bush’s 2006 Immigration Address: Key Quotes
- George W Bush paintings on display
“I think it undermines America’s goodness. I think this fails to recognize the valuable contributions immigrants make to our society and [the rhetoric] obscures the fact … that the system is broken and needs to be fixed. ”
Last year, speaking at a naturalization ceremony, the former president said immigration was “a blessing and a strength.” Its presidential center has also made immigration a key part of its political work.
However, his legacy on immigration during his presidency was more mixed. In 2007, he proposed a controversial reform bill that would have granted pathways to citizenship for some 12 million undocumented immigrants.
Critics said it amounted to an amnesty for breaking the law and the bill failed in the Senate.
Since leaving Washington, Mr. Bush has become an avid painter and author, publishing several bestsellers, including a collection of veteran portraits and a book about his father, former President George HW Bush.
Art critics have noted his progress as an oil painter since his first works were disclosed in 2013 – once dismissed as art by “Forrest Gump,” his 2017 collection has received much higher praise.