Aaron Hughes

Aaron Hughes, 2009ARTIST STATEMENT

I am an artist, organizer, and Iraq War veteran, whose work seeks out moments of beauty, poetry, and connection, in order to construct new languages and meanings out of personal and collective traumas. I use these new languages and meanings to create projects that attempt to de-construct systems of dehumanization and oppression.  

I was profoundly affected by having to unexpectedly leave college to deploy to Iraq as a truck driver with the 1244th Illinois Army National Guard in January of 2003. Within the first three months of my fifteen-month deployment, everything I understood about myself and the world crumbled, transforming my life.

After my deployment, I returned to the University of Illinois to study painting, where my work focused on deconstructing my experience in the military. I began to use art as a tool to confront issues of militarism and dehumanization. I created Dust Memories (2005), Ahmed (2006), Tourist Photographs of Iraq (2006), and Drawing for Peace (2006) during that period.

In 2006, I joined Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW); in 2007, I was a founding member of Warrior Writers. In 2009, I received an MFA in Art Theory and Practice from Northwestern University and became the national IVAW Organizing Team Leader (Organizing Director).

Since the beginning of my involvement with IVAW, I worked on art and organizing projects, including Warrior Writers, Combat Paper, Drawing For Peace, Operation First Casualty, Winter Soldier [video coverage], Demilitarized University, IVAW Field Organizing Program, Operation Recovery Campaign, War is Trauma Portfolio, and the March for Reconciliation and Healing.  

Numerous exhibitions at the National Veterans Art Museum have been curated by Aaron Hughes, as well, including the show on Surrealism covered by The Huffington Post in 'The Surrealism of Memorial Day: A Veterans Show'.   

Jim Leedy, 'The Earth Lies Screaming'

(From the "Surrealism and War" exhibit - Jim Leedy, a Korean War veteran, sculpted this 40' by 12' wall, "The Earth Lies Screaming,")

As curator for the "Surrealism and War" exhibit at the National Veterans Art Museum, which ran from May 26 to November 1, 2014, Aaron Hughes stated:

"This show is transformational for veterans who often feel isolated in their experiences. It is not only bringing an intergenerational group of veterans together but also showing the connection to one of the most powerful modern art movements: Surrealism. Which was dominated by veterans."

"It is so important for veteran artists to see themselves and their work in relationship to the history of art and artist. My generation of veterans is not the first to come home from war and express the realities and traumas of war through art. This exhibition brings that history to light and demonstrates the connection between what Iraq veterans are doing with what Vietnam, Korean, and World War One veterans have done."

ART WORKS by Aaron Hughes
Dust Memories series:

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Tourist Photographs of Iraq series:

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      - Aaron Hughes at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.         -----          www.aarhughes.org


Aaron Hughes presently serves as Board Member for the National Veterans Art Museum and Chair of the Art Committee for the Museum; he is also the curator of the current "Surrealism and War" exhibit at the NVAM. In addition, Aaron is on the Advisory Board for the Center for Artistic Activism, and is a Volunteer Organizer for the Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Aaron has received numerous honors and has had opportunities to perform, exhibit, lecture, facilitate, and train in dozens of locations throughout this country and abroad.
Aaron's work has been exhibited in numerous public collections, including: the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; the National Veterans Art Museum, Chicago, IL; the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; the New York Public Library, New York, NY; Harvard University Library, Cambridge, MA; Yale University, New Haven, CT; and Stanford University Library, Palo Alto, CA.
See video coverage of two large-scale public events that Aaron Hughes took the lead in organizing for the Iraq Veterans Against the War at the Art of Injustice webpage on Activism & Performance Art
  • The very symbolic return of veterans' war medals - in conjunction with the March for Reconciliation and Healing - during the 2012 Chicago NATO Summit; and
  • Operation First Casualty, a war zone re-enactment in one of many major cities targeted for a performance by veterans who had returned from service in Iraq.
See this website's page on Healing Our Veterans for further coverage of the important work undertaken by the Iraq Veterans Against the War, including video coverage of the 2012 March for Reconciliation and Healing. You'll also find there a BBC piece on the extraordinary contribution of the National Veterans Art Museum, with which Aaron is affiliated.
Finally, see: www.aarhughes.org to view Aaron Hughes' current projects; see: www.aarhughes.org/c-v for Aaron's complete curriculum vitae; and see: www.aarhughes.org/bibliography for articles and books covering his work.

    IVAW Operation Recovery at a church

    Aaron Hughes, Iraq Veterans Against the War  (8:18)

    In an era of forced redeployments and bad faith towards veterans, communities must reach out to military service members to help them to demand the right to heal.


    Never The Same interview project

    Aaron Hughes, Curator, NVAM Art Exhibit   (3:32)

    The National Veterans Art Museum provides a space for visitors to challenge conventional assumptions and to experience a transformative sense of meaning.