(July 16, 2007)
Exhibit Highlights Galembo's Mystical Photographs
For some 20 years, UAlbany photography professor Phyllis Galembo has traveled to far away spots to photograph the visually stunning costumes worn by traditional priests and priestesses, carnival masqueraders, dancers, and Haitian vodou practitioners. Art in America praised her combination of a "careful, almost ethnographic observation with a deep sense of mystical wonder," and The New York Times noted the "dignity, conviction, and formal power" in her work.
Thirty-four large-scale color photographs from Galembo's most recent travels are on view in "West African Masquerade: Photographs by Phyllis Galembo," at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs through Dec. 30, 2007.
Galembo's eye-catching portraits of masqueraders, taken in the West African nations of Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Benin over the past three years, are almost life-sized. The elaborate costumes are often made of inexpensive materials such as raffia, carved wood, crocheted yarns, body paint, flowers, grasses, leaves, and sticks. One head-to-toe costume from Benin sports dozens of long, fluttering strips of spotted and striped fur; another, from Burkina Faso, looks like a walking sunflower, its wearer hidden under a cascade of fresh green leaves.
Galembo, who has taught in the University at Albany's Department of Art since 1978, has written numerous books including Vodou: Visions and Voices of Haiti (1998). Her 2002 book, Dressed for Thrills, 100 Years of Halloween Costumes and Masquerade, drew its images from the 500 vintage American costumes and masks in Galembo's personal collection. Her work has appeared at the International Center for Photography, the Fashion Institute of Technology, and at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
"West African Masquerade: Photographs" was organized by Ian Berry, Malloy Curator of the Tang Museum, in collaboration with the artist, a research development grant from the University at Albany College of Arts and Sciences, and support from the Friends of the Tang and United University Professions.
Admission is free; donations are suggested. For more information, call (518) 580-8080 or visit the Tang Teaching Museum Web site.