Across centuries and geographies, human beings have made their mark on the planet—from ancient etchings on rock walls to epic carved totem poles, from intricately webbed infrastructures to extravagantly imagined architectures.

To printmaker Kris Philipps (visual and studio arts), these marks we make bond us in the human experience. Adding to that shared narrative, Philipps references old maps, cave paintings, and symbols for works such as Tracks. “The lines and dashes in cave paintings meant something,” she explains. “It was a language before languages existed.”

Tracks exemplifies Philipps’ interest in mythology and the rituals of various cultures. “These are secret messages and thoughts,” she says. “Through works like this, I try to make connections with the past. I’m fascinated by the universality of humankind, how humans connect with each other.”

A volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, Philipps has worked on projects in Mexico, Tanzania, and Fiji, and her global perspective has informed her teaching career. Philipps and her students have taught bookbinding techniques to a women’s co-op in Nicaragua, raised funds to purchase a printmaking press for an artist in Honduras through the sale of student artwork, and helped to restore Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka.

This spring, the Barbara Walters Gallery in Heimbold Visual Arts Center hosted a solo exhibit of the versatile artist’s work, celebrating Philipps’ retirement after 35 years of teaching at Sarah Lawrence. The show featured lithographs and silkscreen prints, paintings, collage, artist books, and welded-wire sculptures—a recent endeavor she calls “a daring experience.”

“Any creative process is about taking risks,” Philipps says. “That is the most important thing for students to learn.” —Patti Harmon