Americans Who Tell the Truth: Portraits by Robert Shetterly

On view: July 1 – October 8, 2023
Location: Special Projects Gallery (Floor 2)

Many American citizens want to use their voice to bring about significant change in the world around them. But what does that look like?

Robert Shetterly’s Americans Who Tell the Truth series portrays heroic individuals who have dedicated their lives to improving their local and national communities. Each portrait shares a story of someone fighting for social, racial, economic or environmental justice. The paintings are a form of narrative activism in which Robert Shetterly shares the stories of people in our past and present who are fighting for social, racial, economic and environmental justice. When we are faced with making difficult decisions about questions of justice and morality, we can look to these truth-tellers as examples of selflessness and perseverance.

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Robert Shetterly uses brushes, palette knives and his fingers to create each painting; he then uses a dental pick to etch the quote into the surface. The artist, born in 1946 in Cincinnati, Ohio, graduated in 1969 from Harvard College with a degree in English Literature. The direction of his career and his creative output changed when he took drawing courses in college. The portraits in this gallery combine his interests in visual arts (images, image-making) and the written word. Like many of his sitters, Shetterly was also active in the Civil Rights movement and the Anti-Vietnam War movement.

This exhibition is curated and generously supported by The Rockwell Museum’s Board of Trustees. Each Trustee selected a portrait of someone whose life and work resonates with them. Alongside each painting, you can find the Truth Teller’s biography and a label by our Board of Trustees describing their selection. If you’re interested in learning more about these notable American citizens, scan the QR codes to see additional information on Shetterly’s website.





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