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Common Dreams Unveils Shetterly’s Snowden Portrait – Readers React

Very few of Rob Shetterly’s AWTT subjects have elicited a response as powerful as the one to his most recent portrait of Edward Snowden.

Yesterday, on July 18, 2013, Common Dreams “unveiled” the portrait on their website. By midnight, the AWTT website had counted a record number of visitors for a single day. (Read the complete interview with Shetterly at Common Dreams here.) 

What is the emotional and political nerve that Snowden’s actions have hit?

Writing for Common Dreams, Norman Solomon tried to answer this question: “The huge political impacts of the leaked NSA documents account for just part of the explanation. Snowden’s choice was ultimately personal. He decided to take big risks on behalf of big truths. …Few of us may be in a position to have such enormous impacts by opting for courage over fear and truth over secrecy—but we know that we could be doing more, taking more risks for good reasons—if only we were willing, if only fear of reprisals and other consequences didn’t clear the way for the bandwagon of the military-industrial-surveillance state.”

Referring to the portrait and the accompanying quote by Snowden, Solomon wrote that the pairing, “conveys a deep mix of idealism, vulnerability and determination.”

In an interview with the editors of Common Dreams about the portrait, Shetterly explained what he tries to do when he paints people who have taken a personal and political risk such as Snowden has: “Whistleblowers are immediately attacked, demeaned, marginalized by power. My effort is to show them not as fanatics but deeply humane people who are sacrificing for the rest of us. My effort is to both single them out for their courage but also show that they are part of a continuum and a community of social justice—that they cannot be marginalized and ostracized.”

We thought it might be interesting for visitors to read some of the comments that have been sent to AWTT directly and posted on the Common Dreams website in response to both the portrait and Shetterly’s “Meditations While Painting Edward Snowden.”

From the readers:

Hi, Rob.  Just a note saying how much I liked your article (thoughts) in Common Dreams.  Your insights concerning Mr. Snowden were inspiring.  Edward Snowden is, himself, proving to be a model of a true and consistent integrity garnered from a “higher powered” conscience.  I especially resonated with your annoyance about teaming with our soldiers at the airports.  I didn’t know that, but I’m not surprised.  Diana and I, whenever we perform at powwows, have the same feeling when so much honor is heaped onto soldiers and veterans who shouldn’t have been in the military because we shouldn’t have been at war in the first place. What we need are reparations and at least an honoring of those who sacrifice their lives for the cause of peace.  We are more than a little disturbed when we see more military flags displayed at these powwows than tribal, indigenous, peace or Earth flags.  And this is by a conquered people who, in some cases, are still technically prisoners of war.  Assimilation, I guess. But thanks, in big part, to those like Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, Thomas Drake, Tim DeChristopher and others, we may be able to crack the shell, or as you say, reveal more of the iceberg.  And also, thanks to those like yourself who are willing to champion the cause of real liberty, democracy and justice.  It gives the rest of us encouragement to do our part without allowing the spirit of fear to prevail.  Oh, and a pretty good portrait too. 


Absolutely fantastic! (Saw it on Common Dreams, obviously.)

I have not previously wished to be an American but your painting of great
Americans makes me finally pause!


Beautifully felt, perceived and written, Rob. Painted, too.
Thank you again for your pursuit and persistent iteration of the truth. I so admired Snowden from seeing his initial video and still feel for him, am concerned for him.
Wonderful that you painted him right away.
Obama, Biden, all of them, have revealed their severely compromised core as they do the security state’s bidding and try, in full view as savage kings with no clothes, to find, capture and crush Snowden.
We all need to turn our attention, with the clear-eyed morality of a child, to their naked savagery and keep on pointing it out. “Look at them, they are naked and not at all pretty.”




Thank you for giving the world your portrait of Edward Snowden and for your “meditations”, the latter of which I read via Common Dreams. The portrait is superb. The reflections are rich and profound. You have honored Mr. Snowden as he deserves and carried on the flame for liberty.


wonderful portrait and a wonderful

powerful statement by you.

just perfect. thank you, rob.


Just a note to say thanks for your wonderful paintings, especially the new Snowden work. It’s terrific.
I’m a big fan. Hope you will add Daniel Berrigan and Thomas Merton some day…


Ah, Robert Shetterly – your years at the easel pressing your discipline, skills and conscience revive the the artistry of the portrait and dignify a genre that has all too often become a narcissistic slathering of rote.

By adding you meditations and observations, to my mind at least, you connect the words of countless of us among the “governed” who hold this man of conscience in our hearts, minds and vision of a world where accountability is not just a word; where consequences are an aspect that unites us all.

Perhaps other artists will will feel the nudge of the muse and draw back the many veils our whistle blowers are pointing out. And yes – like the Onion – waiting to see if someone can out Carlin the dearest of Georges on this plethora of subjects no longer under the grave stone of ‘national security’.


This is incredible work – It should rightly hang in the house of the people – OUR congress It is OUR house (not the congress of the corporate sycophant and lackey) next to George Washington. I am truly humbled by this young man. Kudos in all respects. I see in my mind, torches and pitchforks in a crowd that begins its march across the country on the Pacific Coast and gathers torches and pitchforks all the way to the Potomac……….


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