Thursday, September 22, 2011

Joe Bonham Project Update

From left to right: Peter Catapano, Mike Fay, James Panero and Carol Kino

This past Sunday, Joe Bonham Project coordinator, Mike Fay, traveled back up to Brooklyn's Bushwick neighborhood to de-install the first dedicated Joe Bonham Project exhibition at the Storefront Gallery. Although this show only lasted 18 days, it was able to get significant attention from the press. We were featured at Pajamas Media, The National Review, The New York Sun, and Washington, DC's WTOP News.

Helping with the de-installation were three key figures in the creation of the Joe Bonham Project. Mike Fay's editor at the New York Times Opinionator, Peter Catapano, New York Times arts writer Carol Kino, and the show's curator, James Panero, editor of the New Criterion.

Peter published Mike's Still in the Fight series last March. Carol, who wrote an article that appeared in the NYTs Sunday Arts and Leisure section July of 2010 about Mike and fellow combat artist Kris Battles, connected the Joe Bonham Project with James.

We are now in talks with several other venues for our next exhibition.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Article About Joe Bonham Project

The big all news station in Metro DC, WTOP, is running a web article about the Joe Bonham Project. Written by Alicia Lozano, the article gives a great overview of our endeavor.

Sgt. Blummenburg by Bill Harris

Selection of sketches by Michael D. Fay

Selection of drawings by Lance Corporal Robert Bates

Sgt. Jason Ross by Victor Juhasz

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Storefront Gallery Exhibition

Announcing "The Joe Bonham Project," An Exhibition Curated by James Panero

PaneroadThe Joe Bonham Project
an exhibition curated by James Panero

featuring portraits of injured US service personnel by members of the International Society of War Artists and the Society of Illustrators

SEPTEMBER 1-18, 2011

Opening Reception:

Thursday, September 1, 6-9PM

BUSHWICK, BROOKLYN – Storefront (16 Wilson Avenue, Brooklyn) is pleased to announce the final installment of its ambitious summer exhibition schedule featuring THE JOE BONHAM PROJECT, an exhibition organized by guest curator James Panero. Post 9/11, the exhibition brings together the work of wartime illustrators featuring portraits of injured US service personnel by members of the International Society of War Artists and the Society of Illustrators. These works are documentative, accurate, and gripping, yet offer a sensitivity and awareness to the causalities and sacrifice of war.

Artists featured in Panero’s selection include: Lance Corporal Robert Bates, USMC; Peter Buotte; CWO2 Michael D. Fay, USMC (retired); Jeffrey Fisher; Roman Genn; Bill Harris; Richard Johnson and Victor Juhasz.

The show opens with a reception, Thursday, September 1, 6-9PM and will be on view through September 18. For more information, contact Jason Andrew at 646-361-8512 or visit

THE JOE BONHAM PROJECT represents the efforts of wartime illustrators to document the struggles of U.S. service personnel undergoing rehabilitation after traumatic front-line injury. Formed in early 2011 by Michael D. Fay, the Project takes its name from the central character in Johnny Got His Gun, Dalton Trumbo’s 1938 novel of a World War I soldier unable to communicate with the outside world due to the extent of his wounds. Scheduled to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, the exhibition will mark the silent sacrifices of American soldiers in the ensuing decade-long conflict.

James Panero is Managing Editor and art critic at The New Criterion and writes about art and culture for several publications. This is his first curated exhibition.


STOREFRONT was started by Jason Andrew and Deborah Brown. It is Bushwick’s leading gallery presenting both emerging young talent and established historically significant artists. Its exhibition program has been the featured in ARTNET MAGAZINE, THE CITYist, TIME OUT NEW YORK, NEW YORK MAGAZINE, NEW YORK PRESS, NEW YORK POST, THE NEW CRITERION, L MAGAZINE, THE BROOKLYN RAIL, THE NEW YORK TIMES, WNYC, and written about locally including BUSHWICKBK, GREENPOINT GAZETTE, WILLIAMSBURG GREENPOINT NEWS + ARTS.

HOURS: Weekends 1:00-6:00PM or by appointment 646-361-8512 .

DIRECTIONS: L train to Brooklyn. Morgan Avenue stop. Walk four blocks on Morgan to Flushing Avenue. Cross Flushing Avenue to Wilson Avenue. The gallery is located between Noll and George Streets.



Lance Cpl. Tyler Huffman by Richard Johnson


Sgt Jason Ross by Victor Juhasz


Sgt Than Naign by Robert Bates


Cpl Matthew Bowman by Robert Bates


Lance Cpl. Tyler Huffman by Michael D. Fay

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Still in the Fight - Trailer (Part 2)

Still in the Fight - Trailer (part 1)

Artwork from Latest Drawing Trip

Official logo for Still in the Fight, a musical venture of the Joe Bonham Project

Artwork is starting to come in from Joe Bonham Project artists. Here's a finished sketch by Lance Corporal Rob Bates. The drawing is of Sergeant Robert Blumenburg. Sergeant Blumenburg, during a patrol in Afghanistan, knelt on a pressure plate mine.

We're also posting for you the official logo for Still in the Fight. Please stop by out fundraising site and leave a small donation....every little bit counts in a big way!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Day in the Sun

Fox News' Brit Hume and incoming Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Ray Odierno, join JPB artists Mike Fay, Victor Juhasz and Rob Bates.

Three of the Joe Bonham Project artists spent the day drawing and videotaping wounded warriors participating in a golf tournament sponsored by the Troops First Foundation. The day was spectacularly beautiful.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Jeffrey Fisher-Illustrator

American illustrator Jeffrey Fisher joined Victor Juhasz and Mike Fay last month for a sketching trip to Bethesda. Here's a healthy sampling of Jeff's sketch work and watercolors. Jeff's son has served two combat tours with the Marines as a Navy Corpsman.

Monday, May 30, 2011

First Exhibition

Artwork from the Joe Bonham Project will be exhibited for the first time at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, Virginia. The exhibition is part of a program called Arts and Stripes. We hope to see you at the official opening of the show on July 2nd. Several of our participating artists, like Mike Fay, Rob Bates, Victor Juhasz and Kris Battles, will be on hand for you to meet.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Memorial Day Tribute by Victor Juhasz

The Price

I remember back in the early 2000’s after our youngest son, Ben, decided to join the Marine Corps. This was before 9-11. This was before the term ‘cannon fodder’ started getting used again as we ramped up to another war. It seemed a certainty to some that after 9-11 Ben would have a change of heart (he was doing lots of PT with his recruiter but was still in the zone where he could have chosen to drop out). Instead it seemed to solidify his resolve. Friends and acquaintances would ask in conversation, “How could a liberal kind of guy like you sanction a son going into the military?” The answer was pretty short and to the point- he was doing something that gave his life meaning. He was involving himself in something greater than himself. Later on it was “But the war is so wrong.” Well, maybe, probably, but one doesn’t get to choose their battles when joining the military, especially the Marine Corps. It’s a different contract. Many of us in the civilian world, certainly those of us in illustration, have the option to turn down assignments we don’t wish to do. We’ll take them if we need to pay bills but ultimately we have that luxury of choice.

I have posted before about my work in the USAF Art Program, through the Society of Illustrators, drawing, and even painting, service men and women in training for urban warfare, Combat Control operations and Pararescue team exercises. I’ve been fortunate enough, through the auspices of the Troops First Foundation, to travel to Iraq and Afghanistan drawing our men and women of the armed forces, far away from home and loved ones, in harm’s way, in hostile lands and have met extraordinary people with a sense of purpose and conviction that is humbling.

Purpose and conviction, however, take a truly profound test when the ultimate price is paid in the call of duty. The test and burden, in those circumstances fall to the friends and loved ones of the fallen. I doubt few of us have passed through this life so far unaware or untouched by a tragic loss of life in the service of one’s country. The grief is there and it is hard.

But the mind boggling miracles of modern medical care, of the rapid rescue and treatment of the critically wounded, has delivered many from what a even a few years back would have been almost certain death. The test in this growing community of severely wounded is the reclaiming of their lives and sense of contribution to society as they make that long, at times physically and mentally painful, slog through the rehabilitation process. One could assume, and not without good reason, just by the sheer enormity of the challenge that lies ahead for these wounded warriors, that the saving of their lives has been a mixed blessing. I must admit, that ambivalence existed in me.

For a few months now I have been involved in a documentation process started by Michael D. Fay, a combat artist and former Marine of over twenty years, of drawing and painting these wounded warriors. It’s called the Joe Bonham Project, named after the tragic character in Dalton Trumbo’s “Johnny Got His Gun”, who is stripped of all his limbs and face, the result of an artillery blast, but retains his mind. By eventually tapping his head in Morse code he communicates that he wishes his reality to be known to the outside world. That wish is denied by the hospital staff. It is an anti-war novel, set during World War I. It is a tragedy. But that idea of rejecting that notion of being hidden away from public attention is what drives the Bonham project. It has gotten the attention of the Smithsonian and the artwork will eventually be part of the historical record of 2 wars, the longest in American history, where the price paid by these warriors has for the most part been a struggle limited to immediate family and friends. The Society of Illustrators has also gotten on board with members wanting to be part of that documentation.

The ambivalence that I mentioned earlier has taken some hard punches to the head the more time is spent listening to the stories of these warriors while drawing them. Most of my subjects have been Marines, as the Marine Corps seems the most open to telling these stories of valor and sacrifice, and their Marines have demonstrated remarkable lack of restraint in sharing their experiences in a matter-of-fact tone that has at times been unnerving, to say the least. No self pity. No “Why me?”. The only concerns expressed were regarding choices made that impacted their fellow Marines, for those left behind outside the wire, and a not uncommon sense of responsibility for not being with their comrades. All this while hooked up to tubes, IVs, catheters, and colostomy bags. Sit with these individuals for an hour- no, a half hour- and you’ll find yourself becoming increasingly ashamed of every minor ache and pain you complain about during the course of a normal, essentially comfortable, day. That phrase about ‘putting things in perspective’ though probably a cliché, is so true. Is the road for these recovering warriors an easy one with a made-for-TV happy ending? No, it will be filled with hurdles both internal and external. But the will to remain in the existential fight makes disappearing quietly into some forgotten darkness not an option.

It’s not just the fault of a culture more interested in ‘reality TV’ than reality. It has been the governmental policy in the course of the past decade to keep these battlefields far from the public mind. Shopping was equated in some perverse way to patriotism and sustaining the ‘American’ way of life and ‘freedom’. The rules about showing video of caskets returning home have just recently been relaxed. A “Warrior Class”, the result of the ending of a draft and the creation of a volunteer army, quickly evolved out of the tradition of ‘citizen soldier’. In short time these individuals became, in a way, a separate entity from the main of society. Their experiences and struggles became less a community concern and more something limited to immediate families.

Ironically, and surveys have confirmed this, the one institution in this country that receives near unanimous respect and admiration is our armed forces. Forget about Congress and the Presidency. Forget about sports stars- overpaid, whiny, and just one step away from jail. Forget about the obsession with celebrities- they’re just disposable fodder to be replaced by the next train wreck waiting in the wings. The members of our armed forces have largely maintained a degree of duty and purpose that so many in our contemporary culture of instant gratification seem to lack.

These drawings are but the beginning of an endeavor to document the sacrifice of our wounded warriors. As we enjoy the barbeques and festivities this Memorial Day let us keep in mind the price paid by a small- no, minute- percentage of our citizenry, who have chosen to serve to protect our country and, as a possible consequence of that choice, pay a price none of us in the civilian world would even wish to contemplate. “Thank you” is the least we can say.

Sgt. Joseph Dietzel decided to take a different route, making a perfectly reasonable assumption that his team's daily travel pattern had become predictable and that they were sure to get booby trapped on the road. His choice proved incorrect and his mini M-Wrap hit an IED that killed his driver, and close friend. With six crushed vertabrae he still managed to get out of his vehicle and walk a short distance before collapsing. He was actually making very impressive headway in his recovery, even walking, when he was set back with an opportunistic bacterial infection called Stephens Johnson Disease. It covered not only his entire body with measles like welts but inside his throat as well making eating impossible for a week. He had lost over 20 pounds when Michael Fay and I visited him at Maguire VA Hospital in Richmond. He seemed genuinely troubled with his decision to take a different route which resulted in the death of his friend and driver. His sister Maggy took off from her job in Tokyo- she left two days before the earthquake/tzunami- to be with her brother. Their close bond was immediately obvious.

Weakness made physical therapy both uncomfortable and exhausting for Sgt. Dietzel but he pushed himself.

It was difficult at times to imagine this frail sweet mid 20's man as a heavier, strapping Marine sergeant.

Sgt. Joshua Elliott could have been telling you a story of some wild ride on a horse for all the enthusiasm in his voice and energy of his behavior. The IED he missed on the roof of a building blew him straight through to the floor below. He kept calling until his other Marines figured out where the voice was coming from. Joshua had remarkably precise recollection of the event and said he fought hard to remain awake during the rescue, knowing that if he fell asleep he'd be history. Both legs lost mid thigh and most fingers blown off left hand.

We never got a chance to speak with Sgt. Blumenberg. He was in a deep but fitful sleep while we were there briefly drawing him. Suffered serious internal injuries from an IED. Most everyone we saw was injured by IEDs.

Cpl. Stephen Farrell- a genuine Louisiana hell raiser- in a good way. He was funny and he was no fool, keeping his laptop by his side and checking for email while talking to us.

I asked Cpl. Farrell if those rods were actually embedded in his skin. "Skin? They're straight in the bone."

The Marines, as a rule, have been very willing to be drawn and interviewed. One was immediately struck by the cool intensity of Sgt. Jason M. Ross of EOD (Explosive Ordinance Device). I mentioned to him that he had a Charlie Sheen vibe to him- not the crazy, drugged out Sheen- but the more laid back yet intense Sheen from some of his best roles. He sort of squinted and took the comment in stride though I'm still not sure if he interpreted that as a compliment. It was. Fellow Society member Jeff Fisher and I left the room feeling very much like we had been hit with a two-by-four of character.

The physical therapist had just removed the cast off one arm and was testing the flexibility of then hand and wrist. It was evident from Sgt. Ross's expressions that it did not feel good. But he was game. His surgeon paid a visit while Jeff Fisher, Michael Fay and I were drawing him. Outside the room she reiterated her awe of Sgt. Ross, classifying him as her most extreme case to have survived an IED since 9-11. She ascribed his survival to the tenacity of his spirit.

The tattoos are Sgt. Ross's designs. He seemed quite proud to display them. If I had a fraction of his resiliency I'd feel qualified to sport one of those myself.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sergeant Peter Damon USA (Retired)

Here's a posting from the blog of Sergeant Peter Damon, a medically retired soldier. Mere weeks after we started the Joe Bonham Project, Damon penned this wonderful reflection on the fictional character Joe Bonham and Dalton Trumbo's book, Johnny Got His Gun. Reading Damon's words is nothing less than going to the Source of what this project is all about. And....on top of everything, Damon is an artist himself.

One of the favorite pastimes of both my wife Jenn and I is reading. We both do a lot of it , probably too much. She's into science fiction / fantasy novels (and reads a ton of them) while I prefer the classics, particularly American literature. I feel that one can gain a great sense of America and American ideals and values by reading the works of it's great authors.You get a more clear vision of those values and ideals when they are incorporated into some great intriguing story with characters that are both interesting and often brutal in their own individualism and originality.So it should come as no surprise that when the BORDERS bookstore down the street from us announced it was closing and having a huge sale with 50-60% off all books, we were eager to get there. There was still some great stuff left by the time we arrived . I got some great selections, Steinbeck's Burning Bright , Absalom,Absalom! by William Faulkner, and Windblown World , a collection of journals by Jack Kerouac, one of my all-time favorite writers. But as I was on my way to pay for them, out of the corner of my eye I noticed Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun ,something I'd been meaning to read ever since I was a teenager and first saw Metallica's legendary music video for One. I snatched the book off the shelf and went and found my wife who only had found one book she wanted. I kinda felt like a jerk with my four books and her with only one but she assured me that that was all she wanted . So we headed for the register and whata ya know, five books for under twenty bucks, great deal!
When I got home and reached into my goodie bag I pulled out Johnny Got His Gunand was surprised to see that the book appeared from it's front and back covers to be an anti-war novel. I'm not sure why I was surprised by this as I had known the basic story-line of the novel since my headbanger days. I now realize that the reason for this has something to do with my own views on war, sacrifice, honor, duty, and service to country. You know, those same ideals we all heard growing up and never quite grasping their true meaning. Some people, myself not included , might equate those same ideals as blind-patriotism and those same people might warn against their danger as being too abstract and meaningless in the face of the horrific consequences of modern warfare (modern meaning post-industrial revolution) and indeed , the apocalyptic death and destruction that the world has borne witness to since the first muskets and cannon started rolling off assembly lines and out factory doors has been startling. Johnny Got His Gun is the story of Joe Bonham , a twenty year old, all American boy next door growing up in turn-of-the-century America who gets drafted into the Army after America enters World War I . While serving on the front lines in France, Joe sustains a direct hit from an artillery shell and suffers horrific injuries, losing both his arms and legs. Joe's face is also horribly disfigured, leaving a gaping hole where is eyes ,ears ,nose, and mouth were once located. Because of this, Joe cannot see, hear, smell , taste, or talk. Despite all that, Joe is kept alive and awakens to a nightmare of being fully conscious but unable, at first, to communicate or even sense the world around him. Joe has trouble distinguishing reality from dreams as he slowly begins to comprehend the extent of his injuries, leaving him to question the justification of his predicament. He is left to wander through memories of his not yet fully developed, twenty year old mind, memories which become very symbolic to the to the over-all themes and moral lessons of the book. Joe becomes embittered by his plight, and his thoughts begin to rail against the injustice of capitalist greed, which he sees as the reasons for the war. The book begins to take on a common anti-war theme of the poor vs the rich and so-on. As the years roll on, Joe begins to make breakthroughs and incredible accomplishments such as learning to tell time and eventually becoming able to communicate through Morse code by tapping his head against his pillow. Through this communication he expresses his wish to live and to travel the world as a sort of circus side-show example of the horrors and moral consequences of modern warfare. He is denied his request as "Against Regulations" and this is where the book ends, leaving the reader with the assumption that the powers that be are afraid to let him out to expose the horror and reality and the evils of capitalist wars.
I found the book to be engaging and very well written. In fact, I finished all 250 some odd pages within a twenty four hour period. A new record for me I think. Trumbo must have done extensive research with disabled veterans before he wrote it. There were many parts of the book where I could relate with Joe Bonham's condition empathically. For instance, when Joe is taking inventory of his injuries and realizes he has lost both his arms, his first thoughts are "How will I work and make a living?", which is the exact thought that first crossed my own mind as I regained consciousness and realized I had lost both my own arms. Another part that struck a chord with me was when Joe describes the " funny prickly feeling" he experiences once, "a kind of fear not like any ordinary fear, a panicky dread" , which describes better than I've ever been able to, the symptoms of a panic attack. There were other instances where I could definitely empathize with the character of Joe Bonham but what I could not relate to and will never relate to is his sense of betrayal.
Admittedly, there are immense differences between the circumstances of my own injuries and those of Joe Bonham. However, as someone who spent 15 months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center recovering amongst dozens of combat veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan , who had all suffered from horrible amputations and traumatic brain injuries, I cannot help but feel to be at least somewhat of an authority on the matter. And as this is fact, I cannot say that in all my time there I ever came across anyone who really felt that same sense of betrayal. This may be hard for some of you to believe and perhaps, since my leaving the place, some things may have changed. But in fact, I found the exact opposite to be the case. Many of the brave young men and women that I met while there expressed an eager desire to get better and return to Iraq or Afghanistan and continue there service as soldiers or marines, missing limbs and all. As for myself, I never felt that my injuries were the result of some vast conspiracy by rich white men like Bush and Cheney to make a grab for oil in the middle-east, although many have made similar arguments. My own reasons for joining the military and my own opinions and views on democracy and freedom are far too complex to be assuaged by tired old arguments such as War for Oil or The Rich vs The Poor . The fact of the matter is that we, who serve, do not have time for such debate. We have missions to perform. Rather it is that we leave the matter to you, the citizens, to elect the leaders that will ultimately make the final decisions to send your sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, and mothers and fathers off to war. And should those decisions prove to be folly, well then it is up to those same citizens to throw the bums out! That is why the decision to go to war should never be taken lightly and the consequences should always be weighed carefully. This may sound obvious to most of you but if so, why is it that most anti-war sentiment and protest manifest itself only after wars have already been started? Or more commonly, when they start going badly ( as if they could ever go any other way).
Human beings were designed to be free-thinking individuals. And while it may sound cliche', there is a price to be paid for such freedom. As long as the world is full of independent thinkers, there are bound to be differences and conflict among them. Unfortunately, we have yet to evolve from our primitive instincts to use violence to solve these conflicts. Of course, there are always other age-old reasons and justifications for armed conflicts to arise, but I maintain that at their root, there is always a simple difference of opinion. Until we, as a civilization were to create some Brave New Worldwhere human beings are indoctrinated at birth, to think and live a certain way, in unison, and be content with that, things will always be the same. But the prospects of that are more frightening than any war I could ever imagine.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sergeant Ross

Society of Illustrators member, Victor Juhasz, visited with battle wounded Marines last Thursday at the Surgical Trauma Ward of the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda. Victor was particularly moved by the personality and story of Sergeant Jason M. Ross. The artwork speaks for itself.

Sergeant Naing

Lance Corporal Rob Bates spent a day with his good friend, Sergeant Than Naing, at the Wounded Warrior Barracks aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

You can read about Sergeant Naing and his experiences over at Rob's website, RBPortraits.

Rob, last month, had his artwork accessioned into the National Museum of the Marine Corps' art collection. This makes him an official combat artist! Congrats Rob.