Thursday, a new exhibit opens at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas. It’s a colorful collection of oil paintings.
Col. Matthew Amidon, deputy director of the Military Service Initiative at the center, says former President George W. Bush painted these portraits of post 9/11 veterans over the course of a single year.
“At its very core the ‘Portraits Courage’ is a Commander-in-Chief, President Bush’s tribute to America’s warriors,” Amidon says.
A report from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, released last year, estimates there were more than 2.6 million post-9/11 veterans as of 2014.
By 2019, that population is expected to grow to 3.5 million people.
In this exhibit, Bush depicts 98 veterans he’s met since leaving office – making up 66 individual portraits and a four-panel mural.
Amidon explains what prompted the portraits.
“This was after a suggestion from one of his teachers who suggested painting people no one knows,” he says. “His thought was why not honor the vets he’s grown to know and draw attention to the work we’re doing here at the Bush Center.”
Amidon says a particular painting that stood out to him was the one of veteran Mike Rodriguez.
“Mike has had some great challenges with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress,” Amidon says. “As such, he’s found a technique to help him with some balance problems by wearing essentially a white contact lens. So he has one brown eye and one very light white eye, and it’s a very marked appearance and it’s very important for his treatment and his ongoing recovery, but it’s also a very interesting painting that President Bush did of him.”
Some of the veterans portrayed in the exhibit actually got a sneak peek at their president-painted likenesses before the exhibit opened to the public.
One of them was Chief Warrant Officer James Williamson. He spoke to the Dallas Morning News.
“The word that keeps coming to me is that I’m so humbled that I was chosen,” Williamson said. “It’s like the lottery, I guess. It’s just unbelievable that I’m one of the ones he decided to paint.”
Bush spoke at that same preview event.
“This change to honor and to help heal, help bridge the divide between the military and civilians,” he said.
The exhibit will be open until October.
This afternoon a state lawmaker plans to outline the Sandra Bland Act he’s filing.
State Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) has said the act is meant to address policies that led to Bland’s arrest and death in a Waller County jail. Her death was ruled a suicide.
The legislation will tackle issues such as mental health and de-escalation tactics.
Another member of the Bush family made news in north Texas yesterday.
Barbara Pierce Bush, daughter of former president George W. Bush, spoke at a Planned Parenthood Luncheon in Fort Worth.
KERA reports only a handful of protestors gathered outside of the event at the Omni Hotel.