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Abu Ghraib Art Exhibit Opens in Washington, DC

The American University Museum in Washington. D.C. is hosting an exhibit (through December 30, 2007) that depicts the abuse of prisoners by American soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The exhibit by Colombian artist Fernando Botero consists of numerous paintings and drawings . Producer Zulima Palacio talked to the artist and prepared this report. Ruth Reader narrates the story.

Through history countless artists have made antiwar statements and protested political and human rights abuses in their work. Fernando Botero painted "Abu Ghraib."

Artist Fernando Botero talks about the inspiration of the photos, he says, "These paintings are the result of the rage I felt when I learned about the tortures in Abu Ghraib."

Botero never viewed the graphic pictures of abuse seen around the world. His paintings were inspired by press accounts of what took place at Abu Ghraib. Seven U.S. soldiers were eventually convicted of abuse-related crimes.

The exhibit includes 80 paintings and drawings in Botero's distinctive style. He has donated the entire collection to the University in California Berkeley where he first had a partial show of the works.

"I never thought I would (sell) these paintings. It would be immoral to make money based on human pain," says Botero.

Botero says he created these works as a condemnation of violence. "I hope that when the newspapers and the people stop talking about this, my paintings will be there to remember an unacceptable moment in the history of the United States."

Jack Rasmussen is the director and curator of the American University Museum. "Fernando is maybe the best-known Latin American artist and the most successful but is also one of the most important artists in the world," he said.

Rasmussen says the combination of political message and great art makes this a very powerful exhibit that is hard to ignore. The exhibit will be on view through the end of the year. It is then scheduled to be shown in Mexico.