I had pinned this credo (below) of Walt Whitman to my studio wall many years ago because it represented to me the essential democratic impulse, something I liked to keep in mind while painting. Overwhelmed by anger at the attitude and manner that our government adopted after 9/11, I wanted to honor Whitman’s words by painting his portrait. It was an effort to invoke his ghost in order to define to myself what was honest, humane and necessary for the survival of us all. It was an effort to define America’s heart in terms of compassion, not aggression. Whitman was the first portrait of the AWTT series.
“This is what you shall do: love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone who asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown.”
– Preface to the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass