WMU News

Poca Post exhibit comes to Sangren Hall

Nov. 16, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- The fictitious and humorous history of the Poca River region in West Virginia is illustrated through a series of commemorative postage stamps created by Illinois artist Ben Mahmoud. An exhibition of the "Poca Post" commemorate stamps, which runs through Jan. 31, 2002, is on display in the ground level lobby showcase of Sangren Hall during normal building hours, Monday through Saturday.

A native of West Virginia, Mahmoud used his background to develop the Poca Post stamps and the stories behind them, commemorating people and events of the Poca River region. According to Mahmoud's humorous fiction, writers and historians have overlooked the importance of the Poca River region. One example is Mayor Emil Casto, pictured on a sheet of commemorative stamps with the following story:

Emil Casto was mayor of Bancroft, West Virginia, (on the Poca River) from 1876 to 1877. Mr. Casto was very interested in the newly inaugurated Poca River Fish Days Celebration. To add to the event, he fashioned a hat of a fish. Unfortunately, it was a very warm August, and the fish oils combined with his perspiration to create a very durable and insoluble glue. As a result, he became very poor company within four days, and this condition persisted throughout the winter.

This was the direct cause of his failure to be re-elected to the office of mayor. Nevertheless, his contribution to the Poca River history is worthy of note.

The Poca Post exhibit comes to WMU from a showing in October at Indiana University-South Bend. The stamps are mounted with their accompanying stories and are available for purchase at the close of this exhibit at the end of January.

Mahmoud's acrylic paintings were featured in Sangren Hall Gallery II in September. The Poca Post exhibit presents a very different body of work. Mahmoud works on his acrylic paintings at his studio in the daytime, but when he's at home in the evening, he enjoys creating art of a different
sort on the computer, and this exhibit presents this digital art.

Mahmoud is best known in this region through frequent solo shows at Zaks Gallery in Chicago over the past 25 years. He is a Distinguished Research Professor of Art at Northern Illinois University, where he maintains his studio practice.

Born in Charleston, West Virginia in 1935, Mahmoud attended the Columbus College of Art and Design, and received B.F.A. and M.F.A. degrees from Ohio University. His paintings are in more than 30 public, permanent art collections including: the Art Institute of Chicago; the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts; Illinois State Museum; Krannert Center for the Arts; Brooklyn Museum; Austin Art Museum, Texas; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Mahmoud has received a fellowship in painting from the National Endowment for the Arts, and he has served on the Board of Directors of the Illinois Arts Council.

For additional information, contact the Department of Art Exhibitions Office at 616 387-2455.

Media contact: Jackie Ruttinger, 616 387-2455, jacquelyn.ruttinger@wmich.edu

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