Tompkins County Public Library

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

"On Being Human" a multi media exhibit opens at TCPL Friday, December 2, 2016

This exhibit, which was made possible by the Tompkins County Public Library Foundation with grant support from the Community Arts Partnership of Tompkins County, opens on Friday, December 2, 2016 from 5:00 - 8:00 PM during Gallery Opening Night. Refreshments will be served in the BorgWarner Room and the artists will be present to talk about their work and what being human means to them.

Ben Altman 

Gao Guangxin  
Inkjet Print

Liang Yuerong
Inkjet Print

These images are from a series of photographs of (and interviews with) maintenance and other staff at a newly-built graduate school campus in Shenzhen, southern China, part of the prestigious Peking University. Almost all these workers are internal migrants, living far from their home villages and families and rarely returning. Home, family, and connection to place and culture of origin are central to the human condition. However, displacement and migration are increasingly the norm for reasons ranging from war to economics to government policy. These conditions often occur within countries as well as between them.

William Benson
607 227 3837

Charcoal and pastel on paper

It is my belief that one of the greatest aspects of "being human" is our capacity to love one another. As much as we try to be in the present, show our friends how much they mean to us and truly love our partners, life and its attentive disorders have a way of sidetracking this essential goal. When we lose a dear friend it hits us to ask ourselves, did he know how much I loved him. Roy and his family grew up with Sadie and me and our family. We were nine human beings on this earth that shared time -- a lot of important and beautiful time. He said he always identified with the crow; intelligent, watchful, cunning, practical and black. And as I consider, how far away from the other species are we really? In this way, as he lived his life in close proximity to the natural world with total respect for it, with love for everything and everyone within his orbit, he was being true to himself -- in the best sense, he was being human.

Gurdon Brewster
minister and sculptor

Prophetic Thunder

This sculpture, which I call “Prophetic Thunder”, shows Rev. King preaching with passionate intensity. Rising up in a flame behind him are nearly 50 reliefs of figures and events that reflect the issues of racism, poverty and militarism, which moved him deeply throughout his life.

“Prophetic Thunder” grew out of a visit of high school students to my studio. After showing them the beginnings of my portrait of Rev. King, I realized how eager they were to learn about the Civil Rights Movement and about Rev. King himself. I wanted to show a side of him that is rarely seen. I wanted to show in his intense face and in the strong gesture of his hand, his passionate response to the tragedies brought upon oppressed people everywhere.Gandhi’s thinking and nonviolent struggles in India. Raised within the black church he was deeply influenced by this rich tradition. All of these sources of inspiration are reflected in this sculpture.
And I wanted to show in the flame behind him images that recall the horrors of slavery, images that show the struggles and tragedies during the Civil Rights Movement, and images of people who inspired him in his fight for freedom, justice and peace.

I portray him preaching from the pulpit from where his most important statements came. He was a Christian minister whose powerful spiritual conviction drew inspiration from many sources: from the Hebrew prophets, from the nonviolent themes in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and from

Jane Dennis
Weaving the Present
Mixed Media

In considering what it means to be human I kept coming back to stories.  We tell our story of joy and sorrow, what happened last week, or ten years ago as a way to make sense of our experiences. “Weaving The Present” is a collection of immigrant and ancestor immigrant stories.   I asked friends and strangers to share their immigrant story with me and used the details to create this piece. The ship on top references the letters that crossed the ocean, for many the only contact they had with family and friends after emigrating. Stamped on the metal are the names of ships, many of them slave ships. 

When I begin to plan my art I seek a story that can lead me in a direction I might not have thought to go.  The needs of the story suggest the components of the piece. When planning “Weaving the Present” I knew I wanted to collect immigrant stories but wasn’t sure how to present them.  Once I thought of paper attached to screen I was on my way.

Mauro Marinelli
School Boy 


To me, being human is the human attribute of religion, and being connected to a higher power.

Terry Plater

A Helpful Hand

This painting is part of a series based on family photos, a project begun as a way to use photos as the basis for paintings – interpreting rather than copying – while also using the photos inherited from family members as a way to research and understand the history of our family and the time in which they lived. Most of our family members – grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles -- grew up under segregation in Washington DC (re-segregation, to be 
correct, reintroduced in Woodrow Wilson’s first year as president which was, coincidentally, the same year our mother was born). Years after official segregation ended, communities of color and low income communities in general still suffer the effects of institutional neglect and a market driven definition of development.  

In this image, our uncle is being helped by a young neighbor to a protest meeting called to challenge the development of a major league baseball stadium in the middle of a vibrant, if modest, community.  Offering a helpful hand – young man to old, adult to child, citizen to citizen – seems to be at the core of what it means to be human.

president which was, coincidentally, the same year our mother was born). Years after official segregation ended, communities of color and low income communities in general still suffer the effects of institutional neglect and a market driven definition of development.  

In this image, our uncle is being helped by a young neighbor to a protest meeting called to challenge the development of a major league baseball stadium in the middle of a vibrant, if modest, community.  Offering a helpful hand – young man to old, adult to child, citizen to citizen – seems to be at the core of what it means to be human.

Linda Price

Requiemwater-based media on paperboard

The Gift
water-based media on paperboard 

Some of the themes that arise in my paintings are: finding freedom in difficult circumstances; animal and human co-existence; and the experiences of work, desire, regret, and joy.  Through imagination, playful creation of abstracted spaces, and color composition, I attempt to show an inner world that is mysterious and noble . . . as dreams and life often are.

Sheryl Sinkow

Oldupai Gorge
Scanned Transparency on Canvas

What better way to talk about Being Human than to share an image of the place where we ALL came from. This place, in the Great Rift Valley in Tanzania is where the earliest evidence of our human ancestors was found. Oldupai is a Maasai word meaning wild sisal plant and the plant grows in the area. We typically hear it pronounced Olduvai, however, that is a misspelling of the Maasai word. It was a humbling experience to view this majestic site and feel connected.

Werner Sun
The Marks We Leave Behind
Archival inkjet prints mounted on board

It appears that humans have always made marks, whether on the walls of caves or on shards of bone or on the sides of buildings.  The earliest human marks were made for reasons now unknown, although hypotheses abound. Today, the marks we carefully imprint on paper or silicon, in analog or digital form, ostensibly serve multiple ends: transmission of 
information, connecting with others, and self-expression, to name a few. But the depth of our compulsion for mark making suggests that its ultimate source lies beyond mere
utility, both for our prehistoric ancestors and for ourselves today. Mark making, the recording of one's own presence, is an integral but ineffable part of being human.

"The Marks We Leave Behind" is an assemblage of digital prints depicting lines and textures fashioned from folded paper, pencil, and charcoal, which are then photographed, digitally manipulated, and sometimes folded again. This piece is a tribute to the intended and unintended impact of our lives, not only on the world itself, but also
on our fellow humans within it. 

Robyn Wishna 

To Dance Is Human – A Portrait
Giclee Print
To Dance is Human - In Motion
Giclee' prints

To dance is human. Dancing is one of the most honest expressions. The synergy, the magic that happens when music moves us to sway and twirl and rock to the beat of drums, of fiddle -- it's primal. This is why I decided to include a photograph of a dancer/dancing… my contribution to this exhibit I asked Sally Grubb If I could photographer her and her husband David for this piece.
Sally Grubb has been a Scottish dancer most of her life.  Sally and her husband David Grubb have been Scottish Dancing since they were both young and, together, since they were married. It has been intricately woven into their lives.

As I photographed them, Sally explained to me
"You get a terrific adrenaline rush when you are dancing well, and you are with someone who is also dancing well, with a group of people who are dancing well--you take off/you almost leave the floor and it's just magical. It's a really important part of my life.”  

This exhibit will be on display through the end of February 2017.  For more information please contact

Exploring Human Origins: What Does It Mean To Be Human? Opens at TCPL

This exhibit was organized by the the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in collaboration with the American Library Association Public Programs Office.  This project was made possible through the suppor a grant from John Templeton Foundation and support from the Peter Buck Human Origins Fund. 

A wonderful series of opening events from November 29 to December 4 has been scheduled to take place at the Library and Cinemapolis.

Tuesday, November 29, 7:00 PM
At Cinemapolis, Ithaca.
“First Peoples—Americas” 
Free screening of the first in the PBS film series 
“First Peoples”  sponsored by WSKG and Cinemapolis. 

Wednesday, November 30, 6:30 PM  
Tour of Exhibit in Avenue of the Friends followed by 
talk in BorgWarner Community Room, TCPL
Exploring Human Origins: What Does It Mean To Be Human?

Dr. Rick Potts,  Smithsonian paleoanthropologist 
How can scientific discoveries on human evolution connect with larger understandings of what it means to be human?  Join Dr. Rick Potts as he explores the main themes and messages of the exhibit in a program for the general public. The tour, talk and following conversation will explore how fossils, archeological remains, and genetic studies shed light on our connection with the natural world and the origins of sharing, caring, and innovation. Refreshments. .  

Thursday, December 1, 6:00 PM
BorgWarner Community Room, TCPL
Exploring the Meanings of Human Evolution: A Community Conversation

Dr.Connie Bertka and Dr. Jim Miller, co-chairs of the Smithsonian Institution’s Broader Social Impacts Committee
How do scientific discoveries about human origins relate to people’s personal understanding of the world and their place in it?  Join Drs. Connie Bertka and Jim Miller, as they encourage a community conversation about human evolution that helps us to understand each other’s perspectives, to identify areas of common interest or concern, and to explore the variety of ways human evolution connects to personal meaning. They will be joined by Drs. Rick Potts and Briana Pobiner from the Smithsonian’s Human Origins Program. 

Friday, December 2, 5:00 - 8:00 PM
First Friday Gallery Opening Night

Opening Reception in the Library, an opportunity to meet the artists for On Being Human, a multi media art exhibit curated by Terry Plater.  This features the work of ten local artists who, through their art, express what it means to be human.  Refreshments in the BorgWarner Room, TCPL

Saturday, December 3, 11:00 AM
BorgWarner Community Room, TCPL
Why We Look Different: How Evolution Can Explain Human Shapes, Sizes, and Colors. 
Jennifer Muller, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Ithaca College will give a special presentation on Human Evolution appropriate for families. 

Saturday, December 3, 2:00 PM 
BorgWarner Community Room, TCPL
Shaping Humanity  
A presentation by John Gurche, paleo artist and artist in residence at the Museum of the Earth
Gurche will talk about his work and how and where he does it, including work included in this exhibit.

Sunday, December 4, 1:30 PM and 3:00 PM
Thaler/Howell Program Room, TCPL
Cave Painting for Families 
Presented by Wendy Kenigsberg, graphic designer and arts educator.  Learn about Cave Painting and have an opportunity to create your own Cave Paintings to be displayed on the walls in Youth Services.  

Sunday, December 4, 2:00 PM  
BorgWarner Community Room, TCPL
Embracing Science as a Sacred 
Obligation: What we Can 
learn from Averroes and Maimonides, two 12th 
Century religious intellectuals. 
A talk by Ross Brann, Milton R. Konvitz Professor of Judeo
-Islamic Studies and Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow 
at Cornell University.