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"Human Nature" at the Handwerker Gallery

“The Imposter” by Carla Stetson is just one of the pieces in the exhibition that examines the relationship between humans and animals. (Photo by Joe Jones)

“When I was a kindergartner I was drawing animals on the chalkboard in the classroom. And I’ll never forget it, this little boy asked, ‘How come you get to draw the animals?’ And I said, ‘Well, because I am going to be an artist when I grow up’.”

Ithaca College art professor Carla Stetson says her passion for animals, nature and art has been a constant theme throughout her life. Her family enjoyed camping when she was a child, and that time spent in nature instilled in her an appreciation for the natural world.

Stetson’s love for animals and nature inspired her to create “Human Nature,” an exhibition currently featured at Ithaca College’s Handwerker Gallery.  This collection of drawings, sculptures and installations examines the relationship between humans and animals, the contrast between domestic and wild, as well as social and political commentary.

The artist, Carla Stetson, poses with her piece “Weasels will be Weasels”, a play on the phrase “Boys will be Boys” (Photo by Joe Jones)

Stetson was also inspired by time she spent in France for an artist residency called DRAWinternational. While in France she visited the prehistoric cave Peche Merle. Stetson said, what she saw in those caves sparked her vision for this exhibition.

“I was really impressed by the fact that ancient humans spent much more time drawing animals, and didn’t even draw a person. They were very concerned with the animal world.”

Stetson noted that through her exhibition she wants to show her own concern for various animal populations that are at risk from ecological disasters.

“I kept turning towards our relationship with nature and it really bothers me that we are losing a lot of wild places. I can actually get kind of depressed if I focus only on the environmental catastrophes that are happening all around us and so quickly. So I think this series has been really good for me. I’m still talking about hard topics, but I think that bringing the humor into it is fun. It makes it a little more tolerable.”

“Domestic Occupation” is a commentary on gluttony and consumerism. (Photo by Joe Jones)

Stetson said she hopes that when people visit her exhibit they will walk away rethinking their relationship with the natural world.

“Animals are really important to us. Not only as food or pets, but just to have these wild things on the planet is important. We need to do something to preserve those areas, and actually if we do preserve wild areas on the planet we are preserving ourselves too.”

The Complicated Politics of Rats” is one of the few sculptures in the exhibition. The artist made a cast of her favorite chair to create this piece of political commentary (Photo by Joe Jones)

On Dec. 6th at 6 p.m., Stetson will give an artist talk at the Handwerker Gallery. In addition to the current exhibit, past creations from Stetson – those that she says lead up to this body of work – will be on display. Stetson will also bring books she read for insight.

The exhibit is open until Dec. 16.

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