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Iraqi exile headlines art exhibit

Robert Chacon

Paul Batou paints scenes of ancient civilizations and the modern

societies that arose after their destruction. Side by side, his

acrylic paintings of Iraq and the United States can be mistaken as


political commentary.

That is not his intention, however.

In a new exhibit at the Harvest Gallery, 938 N. Brand Blvd., Batou

depicts scenes of ancient Babylonian and Kurdish soldiers engaged in


genocide against Iraqi Christians, as well as scenes of the Native

American West and a painting of New York’s skyline adjacent to one of

a Baghdad neighborhood.

The paintings, the Burbank resident said, are meant to represent

the beauty of Iraq and United States’ ancient civilizations, and

their transformations into the cities and countries that people see


“A lot of great civilizations have been destroyed by invaders,” he



Batou grew up in Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s regime. He trained

to become a pharmacist at the University of Baghdad, but after

refusing to join the Baath Party, his student privileges were

revoked, he said.

Batou, 44, was forced into the Iraqi Army in 1984 and was a medic

on the front lines in Iraq’s war against Iran. He saw horrible images

of the war’s wounded, but they do not show up in his work.


Rather, he presents the larger picture, the relationship between

destruction and rebirth, he said.

In one of his works, a lone Indian sits and watches the arrival of

settlers, and the end of a way of life. In other paintings, there are

small western towns and cowboys at work roping steer.

The final phase of the United States’ makeover is depicted in the

painting of the New York cityscape.

This is Batou’s first exhibit in the United States. He immigrated

with his wife and child in 1989. He works as a pharmacist in Burbank.

“Hopefully, people will learn the history of the countries,” he

said of the exhibit.

His exhibit runs through Sunday. The gallery is open from 11 a.m.

to 7 p.m.