It's just a bit intimidating to see folks looking at your painting and then turning around and staring at you. It's indeed a honor to be hanging out with such company but also serves to remind you that you have much yet to do to earn the honor.
Natasha Mayers, a great political artist here in Maine, was also painted by Rob for the series. A while back, at a similar show in Portland, Natasha and I were hanging next to each other on the wall. She told me she wakes up each day and says to herself, "What can I do today to earn the description of being an American who tells the truth?" I can relate.
Rob told fascinating stories last night about various people that he has painted. Our local paper has a great interview with Rob that is worth reading. He tells a story about Sojourner Truth in the interview that is a gem.
Last night someone asked why he painted former President Eisenhower looking away from the viewer. Most of Rob's paintings have the subject looking directly at you. Rob said that he painted Eisenhower because of his profound statement about the military industrial complex. But, Rob concluded, not everything Ike did was great. He mentioned how Ike had the CIA take out Iran's elected leader Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953 and return the Shah to power. Imagine how different the Middle East might be today if the U.S. hadn't done that Rob said.
The New York Times was to later report that in, “The [1953 Iranian] operation, code-named TP-Ajax, was the blueprint for a succession of C.I.A. plots to foment coups and destabilize governments during the cold war -- including the agency's successful coup in Guatemala in 1954 and the disastrous Cuban intervention known as the Bay of Pigs in 1961.”
So Rob said he painted Eisenhower looking away and he put a dark shadow under his right eye in order to make the point, at least to himself, that despite the fact that Eisenhower did make such an important statement that he was flawed.
Rob reminded the audience that none of the 100 truth tellers he painted were perfect people. In fact that is sort of the whole point of it. His paintings show us that if we are going to have "real democracy" in our land then regular, everyday people can and have been stepping forward for hundreds of years in our country trying to make true this claim that the USA is a place of liberty, fairness, and democracy.
Sure it is honor to be painted and to be hanging in the library. But it is an even bigger honor to be a part of the great and historic movement in this country to give ones life for a larger purpose. It is an honor to work with so many wonderful people who dedicate themselves to making America and the world real. We are all truthtellers.