Stefanie Klavens: Doo Wop Motels of Wildwood New Jersey
Built in quick succession during the late 50s and early 60s, the coastal resort community of Wildwood, New Jersey is home to a profusion of motels designed in a mid-20th century style known as Doo Wop. Doo Wop, an east coast variant of the Googie style of architecture, often incorporates jutting lines and rooms offset at an angle. While these motels were christened with fantastical names chosen to invoke exotic and far-flung locales, the structures often followed a simple, consistent formula: a two or three story “L” shaped structure surrounding a pool. Repeating elements include sundecks and swimming pools with unusual curvilinear shapes. Railings lend a grid-like composition and color-blocked doors add to the graphic quality, giving an unintentional nod to Mondrian. Most prominent (and humorous) among the features that characterize Wildwood are the ubiquitous fiberglass palm trees that are native flora appearing only in this mid-Atlantic beach town. Photographing at night under the ambient artificial light of the motels brings out the reflective quality of water and a vibrant intensity of color.
Stefanie Klavens’ work focuses on the importance of place, and documentation of the visual aspects of the American social landscape. Her photographs encourage deeper thought into subject matter often taken for granted: historic single-screen movie palaces, disappearing drive-in theaters, and the quirky individuality displayed in private homes and places of business. Through her work she preserves a cultural record of the past. Klavens studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and Tufts University, where she earned her BFA and was awarded a Traveling Fellowship. She’s received grants from Massachusetts Cultural Council in 2017 and 2015; the Artists Resource Trust, 2014; and was shortlisted for the APA/Lucie Foundation Scholarship in 2014. Her photographs have been shown widely, including exhibitions at Griffin Museum of Photography, Winchester, MA; Sanlang Art Dimension, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China; the National Heritage Museum, Lexington, MA; 555 Gallery, Boston, MA; Photographic Resource Center, Boston; Houston Center for Photography; Davis Orton Gallery, Hudson, NY; and Vermont Center for Photography among others. Her work has been featured online in CNN’s Ones to Watch, Italy’s la Repubblica, Lenscratch, and Slate's Behold photo blog.