Vermont Arts Council

Selections from “Art from Guantánamo Bay”

A painting of a ship in a storm

Sabri Al Qurashi, Untitled (Ship in a Storm). 2010, oil pastel on paper, 9 x 12 inches.

June 22 – Aug. 21

Gallery hours 12-5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday

The Vermont Arts Council’s Spotlight Gallery is showing a selection of works from the Catamount Arts exhibit “Art from Guantanamo Bay” from June 22 through Aug. 21. The full exhibit is on view at Catamount Arts in St. Johnsbury, in the Fried Family Gallery, with a reception and panel discussion on June 26.

Curated by Erin L. Thompson, the critically acclaimed exhibit displays nearly a hundred evocative works made by six men detained at the United States military prison camp known as Guantánamo Bay. The six men have been detained at Guantánamo Bay for as long as 20 years without being charged or convicted of a crime. “Art from Guantánamo Bay” has generated widespread press coverage from around the world, resulting in the creation of a prohibition since 2017 against the removal of artwork from the prison. These pieces were removed before then.

The exhibit is an expanded version of an earlier show, “Ode to the Sea: Art from Guantánamo,” the title of which refers to a common and poignant theme among many of the collection’s paintings. Although buildings in the prison camp have windows overlooking the Caribbean Sea, they are covered with tarps. Prisoners only saw the water once, in 2014, when the tarps were removed before a hurricane. Exhibit curators hope this exhibition will shine light on the ongoing injustices being perpetrated against men who have never been convicted or even charged with a crime.

“Everyone who could draw drew the sea,” former detainee Mansoor Adayfi wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. “(T)he detainees put their dreams, feelings, hopes, and lives in (the drawings.) The sea means freedom no one can control or own, freedom for everyone.”

The exhibit’s paintings, drawings, and collages (one detainee used soap as glue) represent a variety of experiences, perspectives, and symbols, including iconic American landmarks, a mother’s tearful eye, and a visual representation of symptoms endured since a brain injury incurred during an interrogation. Some of the art is signed by the numbers used to identify detainees rather than their names, and some bear stamps reading, “Approved by US Forces,” signifying clearance for release to attorneys before all prisoner artwork was deemed property of the U.S. government, destined to be confiscated and destroyed.

Special thanks are due to the Center for Constitutional Rights, Reprieve US, Beth Jacob, and exhibition manager Sam Monaco.

Download a 136-page prospectus about the exhibit.

For information about viewing the exhibit at the Spotlight Gallery, contact Desmond Peeples at [email protected].

For information about viewing the exhibit at Catamount Arts, visit

admin-place June 24, 2021