Slice of Life

Photographers involved in prison, hallucinogenic and history preserving work receive Light Work award

Courtesy of Light Work

Joe Librandi-Cowan has worked in his Auburn community documenting the past and present effects that the prison industrial complex and mass incarceration has had on a local and national level.

Three artists were announced to receive the annual Light Work Grants in Photography. This year’s recipients are Mary Helena Clark, Joe Librandi-Cowan and Stephanie Mercedes.

The grant program, currently in its 43rd year, is an effort to support and encourage central New York artists working in photography. Each recipient is awarded $3,000, gets published a catalog called “Contact Sheet: The Light Work Annual” and will be included in a group exhibition at Light Work with fellow grant winners in the fall. The program is among the longest-running photography fellowship programs in the United States, according to a Light Work press release.

Judges for this year were were: Jacqueline Bates, photography director at the California Sunday Magazine; Kottie Gaydos, curator and director of operations at the Detroit Center for Contemporary Photography; and Charles Guice, director at the Charles Guice Contemporary and co-founder of Converging Perspectives.

Mary Helena Clark

Clark is an artist and educator working in film, video and installation. She uses the “language of collage” to bring together unrelated subjects and styles to explore dissociative states through film, according to her website.

Her work has been screened in festivals all over the world. Clark also shaped film programs at the Altman Siegel Gallery, The Nightingale and Bridget Donahue, according to the release.

Joe Librandi-Cowan

Smack in the middle of Librandi-Cowan’s ‘15 hometown of Auburn, N.Y. stands a maximum-security prison. The prison is the subject of his current project, exploring the prison industrial complex, mass incarceration and its effect on the nation and in local communities, according to the press release.

Most of Librandi-Cowan’s work is community based and has landed him showings throughout CNY including the Cayuga Museum of History and Art in Auburn and The Gallery at the Ann Felton Multicultural Center in the Onondaga Community College in Syracuse.

Stephanie Mercedes

Mercedes is all about manipulation. The Argentinian and American artist’s interest is in manipulating traditional forms of photography and restoring “missing fragments of historical memory,” according to the release.

She has performed and exhibited in the states, Latin America and Europe. Currently she is teaching the workshops: “The Politics of Hope,” “Using Art as a Political Tool,” “Archives of the Future” and “Law as Form” at The Flower City Arts Center in Rochester, N.Y., according to the release.


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