Daniel Heyman
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Leaked Photos Did Not End Iraqi Prisoner Abuse

Artist Daniel Heyman’s Abu Ghraib Detainee Portraits As Startling and Relevant

(Philadelphia – 4 February 2008) March 2008 will mark the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Four years ago, the images of American military personnel humiliating prisoners revealed to the world how the United States was conducting its operations at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. The shocking photographs started a chain of events leading to Congressional hearings, disciplinary actions against armed services members, and a review of interrogation procedures.

Istanbul - dry pointFor the past two years, painter and printmaker Daniel Heyman has attended human rights lawyers’ interviews of former prisoners held and tortured at Abu Ghraib and later released without charges. His role: to render their likenesses in ink and watercolor so that another story about them can be told. Episodes from their own harrowing narratives are part of each work: Heyman's spare and expressive portraits haloed by words describing the inhumanity of their experiences.

Despite the worldwide furor that erupted in 2004 when the abuses were first reported, the practices continue. Former detainees Heyman drew in August 2007 recount having been arrested and abused in 2007, coincident with the “Surge” strategy that sent thousands of additional soldiers to Iraq who picked up thousands of Iraqis for detention.

The Abu Ghraib Detainee Interview Project, the collection of works Heyman created during his stays in Amman and Istanbul in 2006 and 2007, portrays more than twenty individuals of all ages, occupations, and backgrounds. In the catalog for “The Abu Ghraib Detainee Interview Project” exhibited in Philadelphia last year at the Print Center, Philadelphia Museum of Art Associate Curator for Prints and Drawings Shelley R. Langdale wrote:

“…rather than portraying the former prisoners in their victimized state … Heyman takes advantage of his first-hand experience to focus on them as people. He reclaims their humanity by showing them seated in suits and ties, shirtsleeves or a patterned shawl, as he encountered them when they related their testimony and spoke of their homes, families and friends.”

The opportunity to create this work came at the invitation of Philadelphia law firm Burke Pyle, LLC who were conducting interviews as they gathered evidence for a class action lawsuit on the former detainees’ behalf. The Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights Watch, and Detroit law firm Akeel and Valentine, PLC also participated.

Working quickly by hand in the drypoint technique on copper plates used in printmaking, Heyman not only made portraits but transcribed parts of the translated testimonies by writing backwards on the plates as they were spoken. In his online journal, he wrote, “I feel a responsibility to the people that gave me their testimony under pretty frightening conditions (many received death threats just for talking with Americans, and … one has been killed by an unidentified gunman) to get their first person stories out to as wide a public as possible.” More journal entries and audio interviews can be found at http://www.danielheyman.com/press.htm

Works from the Abu Ghraib Project have been acquired for such significant collections as the Library of Congress, Baltimore Museum of Art, New York Public Library, and the Yale University Gallery. Esquire, a three-quarters of a million circulation magazine men do read for the articles, featured Abu Ghraib Project illustrations this month in a piece about torture by Nick Flynn. And six exhibitions in the last 4 months have included Abu Ghraib Project works: three, including a solo exhibition at the DePaul University Museum in Chicago, open this month.

“As I sit in a hotel room and draw the faces of these Iraqis, they relate the most humiliating and degrading story of their lives. I try to disappear. As an American, I feel a part of the unfolding events of this story, and as an artist I am compelled to use my art to bear witness, so that those whose voices have been taken away can once again speak to their own experiences in the first person.”

Exhibitions Opening this Month

Abu Ghraib Detainee Interview Project
15 February through 4 May 2008
DePaul University Museum, Chicago

Intimacies of a Distant War
8 February through 13 April 2008
Samuel Dorsky Museum
SUNY New Paltz, New Paltz, NY

Artists and War
10 February through 30 March 2008
North Dakota Museum of Art
University of North Dakota, Grand Forks

Heyman in Recent Publications

Art in America, February 2008. “Daniel Heyman at the Print Center,” review by Anne R. Fabbri

Virginia Quarterly Review, Winter 2008. “Art Born of the Need to Tell,” by Laurel Reuter, Curator, North Dakota Museum of Art

Esquire, February 2008. “The Ticking is the Bomb: A Memoir of Torture,” by Nick Flynn

Drainmag.com, Fall 2007. “Do You Remember? Visual Debriefings from Iraq”



Daniel Heyman is a painter and printmaker. His work has been shown in solo shows in New York at the 55 Mercer Gallery (four exhibitions) and Gallery B.A.I.; in Philadelphia at The Print Center, Fleisher Art Memorial, Mangel Gallery (two exhibitions), Dolan/Maxwell Gallery, and the Philadelphia Art Alliance; at the Schoolhouse Gallery in Provincetown, MA; in Los Angeles at The Advocate Gallery at the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Center; as well as in galleries in San Francisco, Hartford, and Sydney, Australia. His work has been acquired by such notable public collections as the New York Public Library, Yale University Gallery, Baltimore Museum of Art, Hood Museum of Art, Free Library of Philadelphia, Portland (ME) Museum of Art, and, most recently, the Library of Congress.

Heyman has been included in many regional and national group shows including exhibitions at Jim Kempner Fine Art among works by Jeff Koons, Chuck Close, Kiki Smith, and others (“People,” 17 January to 23 February 2008); the International Print Center (2007); Moore College of Art (2002 and 2004); The Fleisher Art Memorial (Philadelphia 2005); The Portland (ME) Museum of Art; Butler Institute of American Art; Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University; and Union College Art Gallery in New York State.

In 2008, Heyman’s work will be exhibited at the Samuel Dorsky Museum at SUNY New Paltz in “Intimacies of a Distant War,” at the North Dakota Museum of Art in “Artists and War” curated by Laurel Reuter, and in a solo exhibition curated by Louise Lincoln at the DePaul University Museum, “Abu Ghraib Detainee Interview Project.”

He has been awarded an AMJ Foundation Grant (2006), Independence Foundation Grant (2005-06), a 5-County Arts Fund Grant (2005), a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts S.O.S. Grant (2005), two Professional Development Grants from the Rhode Island School of Design (2005 and 2006), and a James B. Reynolds International Fellowship (France) from Dartmouth College (1986-87). Heyman’s residencies include Yaddo (March 2008), the MacDowell Colony, St. Michael’s College (Colchester, VT, 2004), the Nagasawa Art Park Printmaking Program (Japan, 2002), and the Millay Colony for the Arts (Forest Fellow, 1994). 

Heyman’s work is featured in Male Desire: Homosexual Desire in American Art (2005) and Esquire (“The Ticking is the Bomb: A Memoir of Torture,” by Nick Flynn, 2008) and has been reviewed by The New York Times, Art in America, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Artblog, The Hartford Courant, France Ouest, and The Sydney Morning Herald. As a teacher, Heyman has given workshops and lectured at the Rhode Island School of Design, Tyler School of Art, Fashion Institute of Technology, Centre International des Arts Contemporain (Pont Aven, France), and Philadelphia University. Currently, Heyman teaches at Rhode Island School of Design and Swarthmore College.

Heyman earned an MFA from the University of Pennsylvania (1991) and is a cum laude graduate of Dartmouth College (1985). He lives in Philadelphia. To view a sampling of his works, please visit www.danielheyman.com.

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