Portraits & Songs of Social Justice at the Maine Jewish Museum


Americans Who Tell the Truth: Portraits & Songs of Social Justice

Presented by Robert Shetterly & Nancy Bowker

Robert Shetterly will be joined by vocalist Nancy Bowker of Portland in this special presentation at the Maine Jewish Museum.

Shetterly, from Brooksville, Maine, has painted a series of portraits known as "Americans Who Tell the Truth" now totaling over 185 images. Shetterly says the undertaking, started in the aftermath of 9/11, "allowed me to draw strength from this community of truth tellers, finding in them the courage, honesty, tolerance, generosity, wisdom and compassion that have made our country strong." These historical and present-day Americans have dared to speak out about crucial topics such as democracy, war and peace, the environment, the rights of women, and racial and social injustice. 

For this presentation at the Maine Jewish Museum, featured portraits will include Jewish individuals who are part of the series,

such as  Jonathan Kozol, Louis Brandeis, Noam Chomsky, Medea Benjamin, Amy Goodman, and Richard Grossman

The portraits serve as a catalyst for engaging in dialogue about some of the most pressing issues of our times as expressed by these individuals.

Shetterly says engaging in this project has been transformative: "Before I started, ... I had never experienced the joy that comes from being a member of a community working for a just and sustainable future. Our deepest happiness is ... in the shared spirit of working together for a good cause, for the ideals of this country and for peace.

Shetterly will be joined on stage by vocalist Nancy Bowker. Bowker brings an ethereal dimension to experiencing the portraits. Prior to the event, she undertakes a period of deep study of both the individuals represented in the portraits and the causes for which they are known, With a soulful unaccompanied voice, she sings what she refers to as contemplative meditations based on poetry, prayers and poems. 

Shetterly describes the collaboration in this way: "Nancy and I have worked together several times. I have been awestruck by the intuitive profundity of her musical improvisations. I have never known anyone who could respond so immediately, deeply, and imaginatively to another person's courage and suffering as Nancy does and respond in so beautiful a way that others can feel the truth of those emotions. A gift beyond measure."