Portraits of War

Victor Juhasz“It’s important for people to really see what we go through,” he said. “I have scars all over my body. I have a colostomy bag. I have one leg, and it’s only about 10 inches. This is what happens when you send young men off to war.”—Army Specialist Derek McConnell

On May 25th, the New York Times featured an article by Carol Kino describing how a group of artists from the Society of Illustrators in New York assembled at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Armed with pads, pencils and cameras, they had two hours to carry out their mission: making drawings of service members wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. A naval petty officer shuttled them through the wards to patients who’d agreed to participate. And before long, two of the artists — Victor Juhasz, known for his satirical drawings in Rolling Stone, and Jeff Fisher, an illustrator from Long Island — found themselves in a room with Alejandro Jauregui, 27, an Army staff sergeant who barely three weeks earlier had lost both legs to a makeshift bomb in Afghanistan.

The artists were at Walter Reed representing the Joe Bonham Project, a year-and-a-half-old group dedicated to documenting the experiences of wounded service members. A selection is already on display at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. There have been smaller exhibitions elsewhere, too, most notably a show last summer at Storefront, a gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn. And the Smithsonian has lately expressed interest in collecting the work.

The artists also pay close attention to their subject’s bodies, but in a nonsensational way. Most are in their early 20s, “an age group where body image is enormously important,” said Cmdr. James West, the hospital’s deputy commander of behavioral health. The issue isn’t so much, “ ‘How do I look?’ but ‘How do I look to other people?’ ” Commander West said. “The illustrators aren’t showing them as monstrosities. They’re showing them as people — different from the rest of society, but it’s still a body and there’s still a person there.”

Allowing oneself to be drawn can also be a way to make a statement, as it seems to have been for Specialist Derek McConnell of the Army, 22, now an outpatient. He met with some of the artists this year, after losing both legs and severely damaging his right arm when he stepped on an improvised bomb. A vibrant young man, he was depicted twisting his body to show his wounds. “I want people to see the realities of war,” he said. That’s why, when the artists arrived, he decided to take his shirt

For the full article visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/27/arts/design/joe-bonham-project-illustrates-the-wounds-of-war.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&hp

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