“Wonderful West Virginia” Folklife Art Exhibit 

Emma Delk, Staff Reporter

The Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center at Fairmont State University is proud to present the “Wonderful West Virginia”, an online photography exhibit that showcases the beautiful wildlife and scenery of West Virginia. The photography in the exhibit is from the portfolios of Cynthia Staley, former Fairmont State campus photographer, and John Dent, a Fairmont State graduate, with 2021 Fairmont State University graduate Danielle Doss curating the exhibit. The exhibit is available to all to visit and take a look at the wild and wonderful of West Virginia. 

Cynthia Stanley has photographed wildlife for over 20 years, inspired after meeting Arnout Hyde, Jr., a West Virginia professional photographer. With his encouragement, she began her photography career and spent a section of her career as Fairmont State’s campus photographer from 2012 to 2017. Since her time at Fairmont State, she started photographing with a focus on the scenery of West Virginia, particularly birds. She says about her photography, “I can only share, through my photography, what God has provided in [h]is creation. I believe [h]e has blessed me with a wonderful and awe-inspiring way to enjoy the rest of my time on this earth.” 

Various animals are pictured in Stanley’s exhibit, from the gray squirrel to the blue jay. Along with the animals, there is general information and folklore stories, from a wide array of cultures, that show the mythic backgrounds of these animals. For instance, in “The Swallows” exhibit, the German belief is shared that, “if a man sees a swallow, he should stop and check for hair under his shoe, the color of the hair is the hair color of their love.” These tales and beliefs help further enlighten the photography to create a not only visual, but also a cultural experience for those who visit the exhibit. 

John Dent graduated Magna Cum Laude from Fairmont State University and began shooting mainly theater photography. However, he also loves to capture the beauty of the landscapes of West Virginia in his photography, which is displayed in the exhibit. 

Dent’s photography displays many of the beautiful natural and physical landmarks West Virginia is known for, along with information on each of the locations. Locations like the New River Gorge and The Dolly Sods Wilderness Area are shown in their full specter, with Dent’s eye capturing the full wonder of each location. His photography sheds new light on the wonders that West Virginia holds. 

Together, Dent and Stanley’s photography of the various animals and scenery of West Virginia, along with information about the photos and the folklife stories that connect to them, create a combination of beauty and education within the exhibit. 

Link to Stanley’s exhibit: https://guides.library.fairmontstate.edu/Folkloreoftheanimals 

Link to Dent’s exhibit: https://guides.library.fairmontstate.edu/FolkloreLand