People squeeze money from the public in countless ways. In the case of AWTTT (Americans Who Tell The Truth: Models of Courageous Citizenship) artist Robert Shetterly, his delivery system is mocking up a kind of Whistler-Naturalist style that’ll be familiar to the shared folklore imagery of Americans and Europeans. Using this style confers a legitimacy and ‘quality’ to the cookie-cutter portraits (product) in the eyes of the target demographic (bovine lower-middle class suburbanites); as if the brave “Americans” depicted are being given the respect of history, becoming part of a pantheon, which you – lucky buyer – can be a part of, for low low prices. It’s vapid and it’s debased.


Robert Shetterly (born in 1946 in Cincinnati, OH) is an American artist. Shetterly is best known for his portrait series “Americans Who Tell the Truth: Models of Courageous Citizenship” a project begun in response to U.S. government actions following the September 11, 2001 attacks. Whether or not the initial impulse was sincere, the abject monetization of this portraiture is another nail in the coffin of neoliberal postmodern culture.

See AWTTT (Robert Shetterly) website gallery of portraits.

“Robert Shetterly’s Americans Who Tell The Truth: portraits and narratives highlight citizens who courageously address issues of social, environmental, and economic fairness. By combining art and other media, AWTT offers resources to inspire a new generation of engaged Americans who will act for the common good, our communities, and the Earth.”



THOUGHTS ON AWTTT (Americans Who Tell The Truth: Models of Courageous Citizenship)

Shetterly, like a thousand ‘artists’ working the same cultural grift, is adds ‘Americans’ to cheaply appeal to shared and vicarious pride – the brave fellows of mine, family of ours – to the ‘who tell the truth’ simple, sacred, almost martyr-ish beauty of the idealized portrait style, layering in patriotism (conformism) with the otherwise incongruous ‘citizenship’. Somehow the commodifying of these genuinely courageous individuals, many of whom died in obscurity and/or painful isolation, is doubly repugnant. The subjects of these portraits would not have wanted their image degraded into some mediocre artist-salesperson’s signature brand. Even the font on this website is a cheap attempt to evoke ‘old fashioned, organic tradition’.



Here’s an American Model of Courageous Citizenship: