A selection of Indigenous People in portraits from Maine artist Robert Shetterly's "Americans Who Tell The Truth" series will be on display in the Kramer Gallery of the Belfast Free Library through October.
In conjunction with the exhibit, on Tuesday, Sept. 19, at 6:30 p.m., Shetterly will give a talk about this series of portraits; he will be joined by Penobscot attorney and Indigenous rights activist Sherri Mitchell, who is the subject of one of his portraits.
Shetterly's "Americans Who Tell the Truth" portraits and narratives highlight citizens who courageously address issues of social, environmental and economic fairness. With this remarkable collection of over 200 portraits, Shetterly intends to remind people of the dignity, courage and importance of some of America's truth tellers and, whether or not you agree with a particular subject's point of view, to create dialogue that will help people determine which truths they value most.
"The American people have been encouraged to be in denial for hundreds of years about all aspects of the native genocide that happened here and continues to happen — taking of land, stealing and polluting resources, mass extinction, kidnapping children, breaking treaties, and racism," Shetterly has said of his work.
"Ironically and fortunately, the native people aren't gone and now hold the key to survival for all of us including all living species. Native people are a mirror in which we, white people, can see ourselves if we dare. If we dare to look more deeply, we might see the possibility of our own transformation. In that gratitude we may find redemption. It is a curious thing that we have such a hard time choosing life over exploitation."
Sherri Mitchell was born and raised on the Penobscot Indian reservation. She earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Maine, and received her Juris Doctorate and a certificate in Indigenous People's Law and Policy from the University of Arizona's James E. Rogers College of Law.
In 2015, she received the Spirit of Maine Award for commitment and excellence in the field of International Human Rights. Mitchell speaks and teaches around the world on issues of Indigenous rights, environmental justice, and spiritual change.
Shetterly graduated from Harvard in 1969 with a degree in English literature. Upon moving to Maine in 1970, he taught himself drawing, printmaking and painting. He is also known for his series of 70 painted etchings based on William Blake's "Proverbs of Hell," and for another series of 50 painted etchings reflecting on the metaphor of the Annunciation. Since 2002 he has been painting the "Americans Who Tell the Truth" series, which has been exhibited widely across the United States, in schools, museums, libraries, galleries and other public spaces. Shetterly lives in Brooksville.
The Kramer Gallery is open to the public during library hours. The talk Sept. 19 is free and open to the public. For more information about Robert Shetterly and the "Americans Who Tell the Truth" portraits, visit americanswhotellthetruth.org. For more information about the program Sept. 19, call the library at 338-3884, ext.10.