USA: Abu Ghraib torture and artist Daniel Heyman

This video from the USA says about itself:

Abu Graib Detainee Interview Project

13 Jan 2010

Artist Daniel Heyman interviewed former Iraqi prisoners held at Abu Graib. While the subjects unfolded narratives of humiliation, Heyman drew them and incorporated their testimony into his images. This exhibit runs through May 4th, 2008 at the Depaul University Art Museum (

From The Phoenix in the USA:

July 26, 2006

Which is why it’s so jarring to look at Provincetown artist Daniel Heyman’s watercolors and drypoint prints, on display this month at the Schoolhouse Gallery in Provincetown.

In March, Heyman — who teaches at Rhode Island School of Design and the Tyler School of Art — was invited to Amman, Jordan, by Burke Pyle, LLC, which is helping to gather evidence for a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Abu Ghraib detainees.

Heyman sat in with American Prospect senior editor Tara McKelvey while she interviewed former prisoners.

He set to work, using a metal stylus to etch the detainees’ portraits into a copper plate, and then filled the space around their faces with words.

The nature of the printmaking process required him to write backward.

In the words crowded around the images, every once in a while there is a misprint, which, in a way, helps convey the immediacy of the prisoners’ stories and the surreality of what they endured.

One father and son were forced to enact a macabre spectacle, for instance.

“[The American soldiers] knew that in Muslim culture respect for your parents is absolute, and so they asked the father to hit his son,” says Heyman.

“Then they tried to force the son to hit his father, and he wouldn’t do it.

So they made the father and the son dig a hole in the middle of the prison compound, and they made the son get in it, and they made the father bury him up to his neck.

Then they made the son get out of the hole.

They were both naked, and then they made the father ride on the back of his son around the compound for an hour.”

Another group of men were forced to dance, naked and hooded, for 12 straight hours.

When they tired, they were beaten.

Another man was taunted by a soldier who kept repeating “Guantánamo Bay” and drawing his finger across his throat like a knife.

And still another asked for a drink of water and was given a glass of piss. …

“None of these people were ever accused of anything; they were all just eventually released,” he says.

But despite the perverse injustices visited upon them, they all told their stories with “incredible dignity.”

This video is called US exhibit Botero’s Abu Ghraib art.

12 thoughts on “USA: Abu Ghraib torture and artist Daniel Heyman

  1. Updated November 14. 2008 3:24PM
    ART EXHIBIT: Images of torture
    Daniel Heyman’s ‘Eyewitness’ exhibit at UI publicizes torture victims’ stories
    By Eric Clark
    The Gazette

    Daniel Heyman, “From the Time of Morning Prayers,” 2008. Gouache and ink on Nishinoushi paper, 25 inches by 37 inches. From the exhibit “Eye Witness: Daniel Heyman’s Portraits of Iraqi Torture Victims,” on view through Jan. 4 in the Hanson Family Humanities Gallery in the University of Iowa’s Old Capitol Museum in downtown Iowa City.

    Worth A Look
    # What: University of Iowa Museum of Art presents “Eye Witness: Daniel Heyman’s Portraits of Iraqi Torture Victims”

    # When: Through Jan. 4

    # Where: Hanson Family Humanities Gallery, Old Capitol Museum, University of Iowa, Iowa City, (319) 335-1727

    # Admission: Free

    Related events
    # Daniel Heyman gallery talk: 4 p.m. Dec. 4, Senate Chamber, Old Capitol Museum, University of Iowa, Iowa City

    # Panel discussion: On “Know the Score LIVE!,” 5 p.m. Dec. 5, Senate Chamber, Old Capitol Museum, University of Iowa, Iowa City

    IOWA CITY — Daniel Heyman can tell some terribly sad and gruesome stories about the war in Iraq and torture at Abu Ghraib prison.

    Since they’re not the kind of stories most people would want to read over their Sunday breakfast, they’ll be told later in this story.

    Heyman, 45, is a Philadelphia artist who for the past four years has focused on the tragedies of the war in Iraq. The University of Iowa Museum of Art, in its first exhibition since the June flood, is showing “Eye Witness: Daniel Heyman’s Portraits of Iraqi Torture Victims” through Jan. 4 at the Old Capitol Museum.

    The 15 etchings, gauche paintings and watercolor paintings in the exhibit do not depict scenes of torture. Rather, they show former Iraqi prisoners being interviewed after their release. Swirling text tells each man’s story.

    “I wanted to show these people as individuals, not just torture victims,” says Heyman, calling from Philadelphia. “To show them wearing hoods and being tortured would have just repeated their victimization. I wanted to show their humanity.”

    Earlier in Heyman’s career, he created similar art about victims of World War II violence. Most of his subjects were people in their 60s, 70s and 80s in France who still were struggling to come to terms with what happened so many years ago.

    Daniel Heyman, detail from “The Blackwater Incident,” 2008, watercolor accordion book. Closed: 19 3/4 inches by 13 3/4 inches; open: 19 3/4 inches by 273 1/4 inches.

    “I learned that the wounds of war can last a lifetime and can affect not just individuals but families and communities,” Heyman says.

    Heyman eventually moved on to other artistic subjects. But when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, Heyman decided to get back to focusing on the horrors of war.

    “I was just so outraged by the war in Iraq,” Heyman says. “Plus, I knew Americans would be sheltered from learning about the actual cost of the war in terms of lives lost and communities destroyed.”

    At first, Heyman attempted to create art based on photographs that had been published in the United States. He wasn’t happy with that approach. Once colleagues in the Philadelphia art community caught on to what Heyman was trying to accomplish, he was introduced to local lawyer Susan Burke, who was representing former Abu Ghraib prisoners and doing all she could to publicize their cases.

    Burke invited Heyman to travel with her and her legal team to Jordan and Turkey, where her clients were living following their release from Abu Ghraib. Heyman has since taken seven trips to those two countries to sit in on interviews and create his art.

    Although Heyman was the first visual artist Burke brought to the Middle East, he was not the first artist who made the trip. Burke has brought poets, journalists, photographers and documentary filmmakers to meet her clients. One of the artists she brought overseas, Rory Kennedy, made the “Ghosts of Abu Ghraib” documentary that aired on HBO in 2007.

    Daniel Heyman, “Did you Ever See This? Did This Happen to You?” 2008. Gouache and ink on Nishinoushi paper, 25 inches by 37 inches.

    “Susan really wants to get the story of what happened to these people out to the public as quickly as possible,” Heyman says. “Without her, there’s no way I would have been able to sit in on these interviews.”

    Most of the interviews Heyman observed lasted anywhere from two to eight hours. He creates his art in real time during the interviews as his subject is talking to the legal team.

    Heyman started by focusing on creating an image of each torture victim, but he quickly realized that the stories the former prisoners were telling had to be included in his art. So he began putting text in his work to better tell each subject’s story.

    One story that saddened Heyman was about a deeply religious Iraqi man who had lived with his wife, children and extended family in a country farmhouse for years. One day, as he was eating dinner with his family, he witnessed a bomb incinerate his 9-year-old and 5-year-old boys, who were playing nearby.

    Before the man had any time to react, his farmhouse was raided. He was thrown to the ground by soldiers, who put a hood over his head and shipped him to Abu Ghraib.

    “He was never able to mourn the loss of his children, or bury them, or even talk to his wife,” Heyman says.

    Another disturbing story was told by an Iraqi who was tortured in Abu Ghraib. He was forced to drink liter after liter of water to the point that he was vomiting blood. He could not urinate because his penis was tied.

    “He was in excruciating pain,” Heyman says. “It was almost unbearable to hear him tell his story.”

    Pamela White, interim executive director of the University of Iowa Museum of Art, says Heyman’s art is important because it reinstates the humanity of the people who were tortured.

    “The images at first look deceptively simple, but as you read the text you realize the horrific things these people went through,” White says.


  2. Abu Ghraib portraits to show at Linfield

    MCMINNVILLE — “Bearing Witness,” the first Pacific Northwest exhibition of Daniel Heyman’s portraits of former Abu Ghraib detainees, will show at Linfield College from Monday through April 30.
    The opening reception will be 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 2, in the Linfield Gallery in the Miller Fine Arts Center.
    Heyman, a painter and printmaker, sat in on interviews between human rights lawyers and dozens of former Abu Ghraib Prison detainees. While the men opened up about all they had suffered, Heyman drew their portraits and interwove excerpts of their testimony onto engraving plates or sheets of paper.
    Cris Moss co-curated the exhibition with Carolyn Peter, director and curator of the Laband Art Gallery at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
    Heyman’s art is in permanent collections at the New York Public Library, Yale University, Princeton University, the Library of Congress and elsewhere. He has received numerous awards including a 2010 Guggenheim Foundation Grant and a 2009 Pew Fellowship in the Arts.
    Linfield will also host a public Frazee Lecture with Heyman from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, April 5, in Ice Auditorium on the Linfield campus
    An extension of the exhibition will be hosted by the White Box Gallery at the University of Oregon in Portland from April 5 to May 14. A reception is planned for 6 to 8 p.m. First Thursday, April 7.


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