The aftermath of atrocity

By GREG COOK  |  April 16, 2013

HARROWING WORDS Heyman's 'The Broomstick Was Metal.'

Heyman's companion exhibit, organized by Bell Gallery director Jo-An Conklin, offers his awkward, expressionist watercolor and gouache portraits of Iraqi men surrounded by words in which they describe being forced to strip naked, beaten, dunked in cold water, imprisoned in small boxes, and raped by American personnel while imprisoned at Abu Ghraib near Baghdad.

The texts come from accounts the Philadelphia-based RISD teacher heard when he traveled to Jordan and Turkey between 2006 and '08 to sit in on interviews by lawyers preparing to bring lawsuits on behalf of the men. The harrowing words give the paintings their fearsome charge.

"The female solider started to kiss me and tried to have sex with me, touched me where she shouldn't," Heyman quotes one man. "I spat at her. They left and other soldiers came in, beat me with sticks, and then put an electric shock until I could not see and passed out. They broke my left arm and my right leg. I was still tied up and naked." In these accounts are the ruins of American ideals of liberty and justice squandered by Bush administration-approved torture.

NIGHTMARE VISION Heyman's 'When Photographers Are Blinded.'

Heyman's When Photographers Are Blinded, Eagles' Wings Are Clipped is a 10-foot-by-15-foot-tall 2010 etching on plywood in the expressionist tradition of Max Beckmann. It depicts a blindfolded photographer photographing a fire; thorny trees; a man sprawled on the ground with his long tongue hanging out; a man with four eyes and an arrow through his heart hanging upsidedown; and a pile of cards displaying Assyrian reliefs, a Humvee, a burning mosque. Feet in combat books run along the bottom. Sordid eagles or buzzards frame the whole design. After all his grim reporting, Heyman has distilled a nightmare vision of the war.

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  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Iraq War, Wafaa Bilal, Brown University's Bell Gallery
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