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April 11, 2011

Laura Bush: Just About Generic

Well, the NYT Mag interview accompanying the photos is a little cranky for Laura Bush, but the photos are as vacuous as ever.

People tend to look at photos like these and see Laura as an empty shell. However, I always saw it as guardedness, so what you see is a thoroughly scrubbed and generic Lady’s Home Journal-style surface. (Funny that the house is so transparent when Laura gives up next to nothing.)

Here’s how profound Laura Bush has the generic thing down… Although the NYT Mag is expert at assigning art photographers to a political photo shoot to come away with the most deadpan images possible, the Bush’s neutralize any attempt to exaggerate how vanilla they are. Really, you’re not going to beat them at their own game.

Again, isn’t that the most composed side table/night stand you could possible imagine? Again, there’s no way to distinguish if a decorator put the books and the flowers and the clock just so, or it’s like that all the time. Thing is, it hardly matters.

The intrigue, though, is the “secret door” that opens to the girls part of the house so Laura, if and when the girls have children, can hear the babies.  Now that kind of admission (like the crankiness in the interview, by the way) starts to blow the cover — not only that Laura would be that expectant, but that she’s got built-in secrets.


(photos: Stefan Ruiz for The New York Times caption 1: caption: Laura Bush, the former first lady and author of “Spoken From the Heart,” readjusts to normal(ish) life in Crawford, Tex.) caption 2. The Bushes’ dog Miss Beazley.caption 3: The Bushes’ master bedroom.)

  • karen h

    It’s so fun to look at this collection though on the onset it looks so vanilla. In the first one, Laura, dwarfed by structure, inserts her own little scud missiles. In the bedroom shot, the secret door is so telling and underscored by the bird taking flight. She seems so repressed.

    But I get the feeling her psyche conspired with the photographer, that she’s a bit subversive.

  • black dog barking

    The aridity and sterility pouring into Mrs Bush’s drawing room and her grotesque mask feel so TS Eliot-y:

    ‘What is that noise?’
    The wind under the door.
    ‘What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?’
    Nothing again nothing.
    ‘You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember
    I remember
    Those are pearls that were his eyes.

  • Anonymous

    What I like about those missiles, karen, is that the business end of each is a screw. Symbolizing the implicit Bush motto: “Screw you”.

    Looking at the series, I can’t help feeling a tension (deception?) between messages of “openness” vs. “closedness.” Re body language, Laura’s upper body is open, but her legs are crossed.

    The bedroom, seeming to have dressed by a stage designer, is like the set for a play. As open as if the fourth wall had been removed, exposing the room to the gaze of the audience — that is, us, looking through the camera’s lens. But we’re prevented from looking through that partially open door into the darkness beyond. Closed.

    If you live in a glass house, you should not throw stones. But, if you’re the Bush family, you should expect those outside to throw stones, violate your privacy, and even shoot you. Thus, the amount of glass seems to say “open.” But the property is large; those outside are kept a long way off by the Secret Service. In other words, keeping the context in mind, this glass house is actually closed.

  • Megan

    Those rooms with no textiles! It must be very reverberent in there, almost like an echo chamber.

  • Gasho

    The middle shot of Barney in the field is a good one for how it must feel to be Bush.. all alone in a barron yet manicured landscape – dulled by overexposure, but non-vulnerable now because all possible threats have been removed, you got to keep the ball but there’s nobody to play with… until you die.

    I would have preferred that Bush be held accountable (to provide a precedent for future leaders) but a lonely, slow decline followed by JUDGEMENT DAY and eternity in HELL will have to do.

    • karen h

      When I saw that pic of Barney, I thought “jeez, he’s still alive?” Not that I wish anything bad on a dog, it just seems he’s been around forever. Like Bush’s policies. And we still running behind with a plastic bag.

  • Gsw250

    First thing I thought of when hearing of her “cherished” Afghan rug, was Afghan war rugs:

    And oh, my. She “loves to clean” and George spends his days worrying about his fish.

  • Thomas

    Entirely agree with the interpretation. Most Americans don’t live anywhere near the condition of vast intergenerational wealth and power that the Bush family lives in. This sort of opaque, bland, ordinariness is a deeply acculturated expectation. Even more so if you’re a public figure. It’s not a put-on any more than laborers are posturing by wearing professional sports franchise t-shirts while drinking alcohol and watching television in the evening. It’s an unthinkingly enacted manifestation of an identity that has been deeply shaped by the irrefutable realities of extreme social rank.

    The edifice of Bush power was already built when Laura moved in. Ensuring that its exterior remains free of flaws is her lifelong obligation and payment for her privileges. The message to everybody on the outside is: move along, there’s nothing interesting to see here.

  • Aurora

    My aunt’s houses always looked this staged; even when there was a big family event; and she did 95% of it herself. However, the closets, basement and attic were a crammed up hodge-podge…

    Also, what ARE those missile things? and where are they from? so out of place, unless they have some sentimental value…to my eye, anyway…

    And, I bet they only speak in soft voices and only wear soft-soled shoes, so things are NEVER loud; easy to keep clean as well, which she says she savors.

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