Sometimes a painting is not just a work of art. That’s the case with the most recent addition to the HLS collection, praised not only for its style but for all it represents.
“It’s a statement of what our models are and what we want to say in the world,” said Dean Robert Clark ’72. “A portrait is not just a portrait. It’s a spiritual thing. It will contribute to what we’re trying to do at this law school.”
The portrait of Judge Deborah Batts ’72, the only openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual member of the federal judiciary, was unveiled during Reunions weekend in October. It was a “unique opportunity to demonstrate the diversity of HLS and Harvard generally,” said New York Law School Professor Arthur Leonard ’77, who proposed the idea for the painting six years ago at a meeting of the HLSA’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Alumni/ae Committee. Jack Wofford ’62 and Lisa Otero ’92 cochaired a subcommittee for the portrait.
Of the 323 portraits and busts now at the Law School, seven are of African-Americans, six are of women. Batts is the first openly gay graduate whose portrait hangs at HLS.
“This single portrait of me, myself, and I goes a long way toward demonstrating diversity–with impressive economic efficiency,” Batts said in her remarks at the portrait dedication. “I am humbled because, unlike many of the portraits of academic legends, august lions of the law, and extremely accomplished graduates of this great institution, my portrait is here because of who and what I am–for just being me.”
Batts was appointed judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in 1994. Prior to her appointment she was a tenured associate professor at Fordham University School of Law. The portrait artist, Simmie Knox, has also painted the portraits of President William Jefferson Clinton, U.S. Supreme Court Justices Thurgood Marshall and Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’56-’58, and baseball legend Hank Aaron.