Guggenheim Fellowship: Daniel Heyman

John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation

A gifted artist, painter, and printmaker, Daniel Heyman is driven by his social concerns and strives through his work to give dignity and voice to the victims of violence. Among his most celebrated—and controversial—series is his depictions of former inmates of Abu Ghraib as they recount for their lawyers what they endured. As they spoke, Mr. Heyman, who was privileged to be present at the meetings of these Iraqis with their lawyers from Burke-O’Neil LLC, scratched their images directly on copper plates, surrounding their portrait busts with excerpts of their testimonies as they were translated by an interpreter. When he ran out of copper plates, he painted their portraits in gouache and watercolor. The immediacy of this process was important to him since he hoped it would necessarily result in totally unfiltered, and thus truly authentic, representations of these individuals. Printed in an edition of thirty, the resulting Amman Portfolio has been exhibited throughout the United States—at The Print Center in Philadelphia, the University of Chicago’s Renaissance Center, the New York Public Library, North Dakota Museum of Art, Haverford College Library, and the Princeton University Museum of Art, among other venues—and is in the permanent collections of a number of public institutions.


In 2007 he created a twenty-four-panel accordion book, 34 feet long and 2 feet high, with each two-page spread consisting of a bust-length portrait of an Iraqi torture victim, again surrounded by transcriptions of his own testimony, rendered in watercolor and gouache on paper. First shown at the DePaul University Art Museum in 2008, it was featured in the exhibition Eye Witness: Daniel Heyman’s Portraits of Iraqi Torture Victims, which opened in 2008 at the University of Iowa and then under the title Bearing Witness: Daniel Heyman travelled in 2010 to the List Gallery at Swarthmore College, the Zilkha Gallery at Wesleyan University, and in 2011 to Loyola Marymount University in Lost Angeles and Linfield College in Oregon.


Working again with Burke-O’Neil as it represented the Iraqi complainants in their wrongful-death case against the Blackwater Corporation for its role in the 2007 murders in Nisour Square in Baghdad, Mr. Heyman created a second accordion book in the same fashion, which was included in the University of Iowa Museum of Art, List Gallery, and Zilkha Gallery exhibitions and was acquired and exhibited at the Meade Museum of Art at Amherst College. Mr. Heyman again created a portfolio of drypoint portraits of the Nisour Square victims, several of which were also shown at the Woodrow Wilson School, the International Print Center in New York City, Carleton College, and the College of Wooster. Interest in these works led as well to invitations to lecture at numerous colleges and universities.


His many other notable works include The Death of Eddie Polec and Other Stories from Philadelphia and Elsewhere, a 5 by 15-foot gouache narrative about the random mob attack in 1994 on the 19-year-old Polec, which was featured in Male Desire: The Homoerotic in American Art (2005), by fellow Guggenheim Fellow Jonathan Weinberg; and Istanbul Portfolio, ten new drypoints that he created during his observations of testimony by former Iraqi detainees to lawyers from Burke-O’Neil. One copy of that portfolio is now in the permanent collection of the Library of Congress and another is being donated to the Free Library of Philadelphia, while a third was recently acquired by St. Lawrence University. Mr. Heyman has worked over the past two years in collaboration with fellow Guggenheim Fellow Nick Flynn to create an artist book Re d Acted, which contains nine handprinted portraits of Iraqi torture victims and seven poems by Flynn, who also travelled to Istanbul to listen to interviews. Re d Acted was recently acquired by the Princeton University Rare Books Collection. During his Guggenheim Fellowship term, Mr. Heyman will be completing another such artistic study, this time of women in the U.S. military who have been raped by their fellow soldiers.


Among his honors are a Dartmouth/Reynolds International Fellowship for study in France; a Nagasawa International Residency, during which he studied mochu-hanga printmaking with Japanese master craftsmen; a Forest Fellowship at the Millay Colony; residencies at Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony, and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts. In addition, his work has been supported by several grants from the Rhode Island School of Design as well as from the Independence Foundation, Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, and the AMJ Foundation.


Since 2004 he has been a Visiting Professor in printmaking at the Rhode Island School of Design, since 2006 a Visiting Professor of Art at Swarthmore College, and for the past two years a Visiting Professor of Art at Princeton University.

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