WMU News

Photography by two art faculty members on exhibit

April 2, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- The Department of Art at Western Michigan University presents a two-person show of photography by art faculty members Wendy Babcox and Cybele Clark-Mendes in Gallery II of Sangren Hall, April 2-19. Gallery II hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

On Tuesday, April 2, Babcox and Cybele Clark-Mendes will give slide talks on their work in Room 2301 of Sangren Hall at 7:30 p.m. There will be a reception following in Gallery II. The public is invited and admission is free.

Wendy Babcox is a photographer, video, installation and performance artist who is an assistant professor of photography and intermedia. She graduated magna cum laude with a B.F.A. degree from the University of Colorado. She was awarded the Named Presidential Fellowship at the University of Florida where she graduated with an M.F.A. degree in photography and electronic intermedia in 2000.

Babcox has exhibited in many group shows around the country. This winter she had a solo show at Lake Forest College. She also has presented her work at conferences such as the Graduate Student Feminist Conference and the Society for Photographic Education National and Regional Conferences.

Babcox's work centers on themes of the female "tourist attraction" and visual representation. Often she utilizes performative strategies in her work and favors tactics of intervention and provocation with regard to feminist visual politics. In particular, she looks to themes of women's laughter and mischief as transgressive strategies in her work.

While in Florida, Babcox found many instances of female tourist attractions in the theme parks of Florida: the mermaids of Weekee Watchee, the Snake Charmer at Busch Gardens, the Whale Trainers at Sea World and Tinkerbell at Disney World. In Michigan, Babcox discovers her subjects in the wide variety of festivals that take place in the summer. Tulip time, the Scottish Highland Games and Oktoberfest all provide carnival figures for her work.

Cybele Clark-Mendes holds an M.F.A. degree from the Rhode Island School of Design. She received a B.F.A. degree from Cornell University. Since her arrival at Western Michigan University in 2000, she has exhibited in a solo show at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art, Grand Rapids, Mich. She was in a group show titled Quick Flicks: A Compilation of Videos 60 Seconds or Less at the Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art, Lake Worth, Fla. Clark-Mendes is a recipient of a WMU Research Development Award, a WMU Department of Art Development Grant, and in addition, she was awarded a grant to develop a teaching Web site sponsored by the WMU Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to Use Technology (PT3) Initiative.

Clark-Mendes says, "My artwork is generated by my convoluted childhood, in addition to the exploration of my disjointed family dynamics. Whether working in video or photography, all of my projects lead me on a quest to clarify my issues of identity. As a woman with the combined heritage of a white father and a black mother, there is the outside pressure to choose one race over the other due to society's need to classify and categorize.

"I am both races and cannot and will not decide to be just one. Through my life experiences, I have learned to navigate my way within two worlds. Thus I do not feel biracial but rather bicultural. I am a witness of cultural manifestations through the presence of my Jewish father in my life and by the memories and stories told to me by my Black mother. This photographic exhibition is an ongoing project featuring the dynamics of my family. I find insight into my life and familial position by employing the notion of working within one's backyard. Ultimately, this work informs my sense of self," says Clark-Mendes.

For additional information, contact the Department of Art Exhibitions Office at 269 387-2455.

Media contact: Jackie Ruttinger, 269 387-2455, jacquelyn.ruttinger@wmich.edu


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