Shetterly and his Americans in Rockport

Jul 01, 2014
Frances Perkins, U.S. Secretary of Labor from 1933 to 1945 and a lifelong teacher, is among the portrait subjects in Robert Shetterly’s Americans Who Tell the Truth series of acrylic on wood panel portraits.

Rockport — The Rockport Public Library is sponsoring an art show and discussion with Maine artist Rob Shetterly Saturday, July 12, at the Rockport Opera House, 6 Central St. The art show will open at 2 p.m. At 7 p.m., there will be a discussion with Shetterly, driving force behind Americans Who Tell the Truth.

Shetterly is a Harvard College grad with a degree in English Literature. At Harvard, he took some courses in drawing that changed the direction of his creative life from the written word to the image. Also during this time, he was active in civil rights and the anti-Vietnam War movements.

After college and moving to Maine in 1970, he taught himself drawing, printmaking and painting. He illustrated widely; for 12 years, he did the editorial page drawings for The Maine Times newspaper, and he illustrated National Audubon's children's newspaper Audubon Adventures and approximately 30 books.

Shetterly’s paintings and prints are in collections all over the United States and Europe. His painting has tended toward the narrative and the surreal; however, for more than 10 years, he has been painting the series of portraits Americans Who Tell the Truth, which has been traveling around the country since 2003. Venues have included everything from university museums and grade school libraries to sandwich shops, the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City and the Superior Court in San Francisco. To date, the exhibits have visited 26 states.

In 2005, Dutton published a book of the portraits by the same name. In 2006, the book won the top award of the International Reading Association for Intermediate non-fiction. Shetterly has engaged in political and humanitarian work with many of the people whose portraits he has painted. In the spring of 2007, he traveled to Rwanda with Lily Yeh and Terry Tempest Williams to work in a village of survivors of the 1994 genocide there. Much of his current work focuses on honoring and working with the activists trying to bring an end to the practice of mountaintop removal by coal companies in Appalachia; on climate change; and on the continuation of systemic racism in the U.S., particularly in relation to the school to prison pipeline.

Since 1990, Shetterly has been the President of the Union of Maine Visual Artists and a producer of the UMVA’s video documentary Maine Masters Project. The award-winning artist was named a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow in 2009, enabling him to do weeklong residences in colleges around the country. The University of Maine at Farmington awarded him an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in 2011.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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