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02/11/2013

Gallery Features Activist Sandra Steingraber

Ecologist and environmental activist Sandra Steingraber will discuss the potential threat posed by hydrofracking, during an art show at SUNY Cortland’s Beard and Dowd galleries that pays tribute to influential people who speak out against perceived injustice.

Steingraber, an internationally recognized biologist who has drawn attention to possible environmental links with cancer, is one of 28 outspoken activists immortalized in the “Americans Who Tell the Truth” exhibition. The series of painted portraits by Maine-based artist Robert Shetterly currently hangs in the Beard and Dowd galleries at Main Street SUNY Cortland, 9 Main St.

Steingraber’s visage joins those of many late influential activists including Cesar Chavez, Shirley Chisholm, Dorothea Lange and SUNY Cortland’s own William “Bill” Griffen ’50.

Steingraber is still speaking out on behalf of those who are voiceless.

Her latest target is hydrofracking, a controversial method of extracting natural gas. Steingraber will discuss “Speaking Truth to Power about Fracking” in the Dowd Gallery, located on the third floor, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 12.

“I will focus on the truth and scientific evidence in the secrecy-shrouded world of fracking and political decision-making and the role of evidence when gag orders, non-disclosure agreements, sealed records, and federal exemptions surround a powerful industry with legal, enforced silence,” she said.

The exhibition, which opened on Jan. 22, runs through Saturday, March 9. Admission to both galleries is free and open to the public.

Currently a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Ithaca College’s Environmental Studies and Science Department, Steingraber’s most recent advocacy work focuses on the controversy surrounding hydrofracking and its impact on local communities.

Steingraber has gained national and international recognition as an expert on the environmental links to cancer and reproductive health.

Sandra Steingraber
Artist Robert Shetterly painted this portrait of Sandra Steingraber, an internationally recognized biologist, and 27 other images of activists depicted in SUNY Cortland's “Americans Who Tell the Truth” exhibition at the Beard and Dowd galleries at Main Street SUNY Cortland, 9 Main St.

She is the author of a 2001 book, Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood, which caused the Sierra Club to name her the “new Rachel Carson.” Having Faith describes the environmental hazards affecting mothers during their pregnancy and their infants. This work is both a memoir of her own pregnancy and an investigation of fetal toxicology. It reveals the alarming extent to which environmental hazards now threaten each crucial stage of infant development.

Her earlier, highly acclaimed 1997 text, Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment, propelled her to the front ranks of contemporary environmental activists. Living Downstream was the first to bring together data on toxic releases with newly released data from U.S. cancer registries. The book won praise from international media.

Steingraber was named a Ms. Magazine Woman of the Year in 1997, and in 1998 received the Jenifer Altman Foundation’s first annual Altman Award for “the inspiring and poetic use of science to elucidate the causes of cancer.”

She served on President Bill Clinton’s National Action Plan on Breast Cancer.

In 1999, as part of international treaty organizations, Steingraber briefed United Nation delegates in Geneva, Switzerland on dioxin contamination in breast milk.

A former faculty member at Cornell University, Steingraber received her doctorate in biology from the University of Michigan, a master’s degree in English from Illinois State University and a bachelor’s degree in biology from Illinois Wesleyan University.

Shetterly, the artist, began working on the collection because of the frustration he felt about the war in Iraq. He believed President George W. Bush’s administration leveraged propaganda about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as justification for war. He originally set out to paint 50 portraits, one for each state. To date, he has created more than 150.

According to Shetterly, the subjects in his paintings gaze back at viewers with an invitation to act.

Each piece in the current exhibition includes a painted portrait and a quotation by the subject scratched into the painting’s surface. The Dowd Gallery features 22 portraits. The Beard Gallery displays six, themed around activist women in the arts.

The “Americans Who Tell the Truth” exhibition is sponsored by SUNY Cortland’s Art and Art History Department; the College’s Institute for Civic Engagement; the Cortland Fund; the Cortland College Foundation; the Center for Peace, Ethics and Social Justice; the Haines Fund; and the SUNY Cortland Auxiliary Services Corporation.

Additional funding is provided by Syracuse University’s Middle East and North Africa Programs; its Executive Education Program; and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

For those who wish to view the exhibition at another time, gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Tuesdays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Both are closed Sundays and Mondays. Group tours of the exhibition are available. Contact Gallery Director Erika Fowler-Decatur at 607-753-4216.

Visit the Dowd Gallery’s page for a schedule of related programs.