Sunday, July 25, 2010

Art that honors dissent and the spirit of social justice

painting of Paul Robeson by Robert Shetterly

I really like what American painter Robert Shetterly has done to fulfill what he describes as the societal and political obligation of the artist.

Despairing in the wake of the war militancy and the narratives of retribution and domination that gripped his country after the events of September 11 2001, Shetterly gave up his artistic career to identify and understand radicals and truth tellers who in dark times resisted imperialism, war, injustice and domination.

Shetterly decided to honor people who struggled for peace, justice and human and civil rights by painting their portraits.

The result is an exhibition "150 Americans who Tell the Truth" which comprises 150 "portraits of courage"- paintings of everyday and prominent Americans who acted with courage in dark times.

Shetterly has painted people who oppose slavery and war, people who challenged corporate and political power, people who fought to protect the environment, people who struggled against economic injustice, racism and discrimination and people who fought for the rights of the marginalized and impoverished. There are also portraits of artists, musicians and writers who used their creative abilities to fight for social and political change.

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