On Sunday, I was inspired to go the the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center. I planned to meet up with my friend about forty minutes before I actually arrived, and luckily, that bit of procrastination created an unexpected rendezvous.
Terry Plater, the featured artist in the Gallery Julius, happened to be in attendance and was gracious enough to meet with me and that was AMAZING!
Plater’s exhibit is titled Harriet’s Legacy. It is a series of watercolored landscapes (along with a few oil paintings). They are abstracted with muted tones and sweeping brushstrokes creating a harmonious horizontal solitude. The paintings demonstrate a tranquility, as though the historical voices yearning for freedom that infuse these landscapes are finally at peace.
An historian from the Cayuga Museum of History & Art directed Plater to the actual places that Harriet Tubman walked to include the probable paths of the Underground Railroad. The artist imagined these places as they may have been, sort of remembering the past in a vision and injecting it with the love of four hundred years, the strength of character through tears of both sorrow and joy, and the quiet confidence and intelligence she exudes as the beautiful soul, artist, and teacher she is today.
It is a marriage between past and present with the focus on positive outcomes, as well as the deep respect for Tubman and people like her who had the courage to make the future brighter.
I see the power in that beauty – it isn’t the angst of social injustice. Each painting was inspired by text – by quotes from books, letters penned by “fugitive” slaves, and notes from recorded journals – all found in a library where Plater researched the Underground Railroad activities specific to the Auburn, New York area. The paintings echo the manifestations of desires, wishes, hopes and dreams that came true in spite of doubts, fears and sacrifice.
Each painting in this eleven-piece collection is for sale. They will be on display until August 7, 2021.
In addition, Plater is simultaneously showing paintings at the Cayuga Museum of History & Art. These are figurative paintings.
She has channeled a voice to the local African American past through a connection with her own family members. There is an ethereal flavor to these paintings as well, the same muted tones, albeit in oils. That museum was closed on Sunday, so I could not view the shows in tandem, but perhaps you still can!
So beautiful, uplifting and inspirational.
Terry Plater told me that her deepest wish is to share this journey with students, so, I want to relay that message to families who are looking to do a day trip. The museums are adjacent to one another and – you’re welcome.
Thank you, Terry Plater – you are a beautiful person inside and out, and it was a sincere pleasure to have met you. Continued success to you in your career as an artist and in all that you choose to do! <3
(from the SMAC website)
The idea for this exhibit came together for me in an iterative fashion as I contemplated three things: the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans in the now United States (in 2019); the release of the film “Harriet,” which so richly conveyed the life, struggles and triumphs of Harriet Tubman; and an ongoing project I have been undertaking: painting from old family photos to better come to know and honor the history of my own family in Maryland and Virginia.
The proposal links these discreet endeavors in a single narrative, one that imagines, represents, and celebrates family history and 19th-20th century public life — specifically here in upstate NY — as emblematic. The title is meant to convey several things: the intergenerational history, value, and ownership of our collective American story as embodied in slavery and emancipation, the acknowledgement of Harriet Tubman as a local figure and national treasure.
Terry Plater wishes to thank all those who made this exhibition possible: The Schweinfurth Art Center and the Cayuga Museum of History and Art in Auburn; and the Community Arts Partnership of Tompkins County.
The Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center is located at 205 Genesee Street, Auburn, New York 13021. For more information, including hours of operation, call (315) 255-1553 or visit their website here.
The Cayuga Museum of History & Art is located at 203 Genesee Street, Auburn, New York 13021. For more information, including hours of operation, call (315) 253-8051 or visit their website here.