Jason Holley
Who vs. Saddam
New York Times Sunday Magazine

This portrait was assigned while the deposed Iraqi leader had disappeared
into U.S. custody and the magazine was to run concurrent with his reappear-
ance to stand trial. The morning the final piece was due, Saddam did the
“perp walk” for the media and I got a frantic phone call telling me he had
grown a full beard. This was significant for a couple of reasons, the most
obvious being that I had painted him as he appeared months earlier—looking
as he always had—no beard, Italian suits etc...and now he looked totally
different. There was also an important subtext to this physical transformation
— it was seen by some to be a naked ploy to appear more pious and
sympathetic. To complicate the job a little further, I was teaching illustration
classes all day and had to paint his beard as an in-class demonstration. I
decided to leave the tie that he was wearing (understood by some, as a symbol
of western decadence) in the painting. Ultimately, I felt it was a subtle way to
introduce the question of his motives.