Spiva Center for the Arts is finding some interesting collaborations through its newest exhibit, “Anonymous Women: Camouflage and Calamity.” It’s the complicated personal and cultural identities of women — the focus of the exhibit — that are spurring them.
The exhibit will be the basis of presentations by Heartland Opera Theatre and Post Art Library, in cooperation with the art center.
Heartland Opera will present “I Want…The Desires of Women in Opera,” an operatic accompaniment to the exhibit, at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, at Spiva. Jill Sullivan, director of PAL, will present “Women’s History Joplin: A Brief Introduction” at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 3, at the art center. Tickets for the opera performance are $15 in advance through www.spivaarts.org and $20 at the door. The PAL presentation is free.
The “Anonymous Women” exhibit is a series of staged photographs of domestic scenes in which women are camouflaged by domestic objects — draperies, wallpaper, dishes, telephones, scrap booking materials, and just about anything else that surrounds women in their domestic lives. Presented by photographer Patty Carroll, the photographs use highly intense, saturated color to depict the humorous and sometimes calamitous relationships women have with domesticity.
In an interview on The Chicago Ambassador blog, Carroll explained that women have complicated relationships with the home. While they have fought for liberation and recognition, they still find their homes to be their primary domain — where their families, hearts and comforts are.
“We still relate as women about things we like,“ Carroll said in the interview. “We like our couches and our rugs and stuff. It’s what makes life comfortable. There’s nothing wrong with that, but at the same time some women feel trapped by it or other women feel burdened by it.”
Her “Anonymous Women” series, which is ever expanding, has been exhibited internationally and has won multiple awards. The photographs were published as a monograph book, released in 2017 by Daylight Books. She was the juror for the most recent edition of PhotoSpiva, the art center’s national photography competition.
When Dr. Diana Allan, associate professor of voice at Missouri Southern, viewed the exhibit, she looked for a way to connect it to opera. Allan has performed in operas in the Midwest and Southwest and in Europe and Brazil.
“I thought about the women in opera who are anything but anonymous, but they often camouflage themselves and their desires in various ways and are fraught with calamities,” she said.
As a board member of Heartland Opera, she designed the program for Spiva, drawing from operas that feature women in complicated relationships, romantically, culturally, even religiously. Her selected arias or songs for soloists from such operas as “Faust,” “Carmen,” “The Marriage of Figaro,” “Susannah,” “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “The Enchanted Pig,” among others.
The performers will be sopranos Stacey Stofferahn of Kansas City and Sarah Kuhlmann of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and mezzo-soprano Lisa Gerstenkorn of Pittsburg, Kansas. They will be accompanied by pianist Glenda Austin, choral accompanist for Missouri Southern.
Allan views Heartland’s collaboration with Spiva as a good fit.
“Opera and visual art actually have much in common,” she said. “They both tell stories that enable us to reflect on who we are, how we relate to others, and what it means, collectively and individually, to be human.”
Heartland has been working at community outreach performances, like the one presented at Spiva, to offer greater exposure to opera. Last year, it did outreach performances at Northwood Arts and Events Center at Neosho, the Woodshed at Carthage and Joplin Avenue Coffee Co.
For Jill Sullivan, the director of PAL, the “Anonymous Women” exhibit’s focus on women’s identity works well with her presentation on “Women’s History Joplin: A Brief Introduction.” It’s appropriate for Spiva because of its location in the former Cosgrove Building, believed to be the only local historic building named after a woman.
Henrietta Cosgrove was a writer, civic leader and philanthropist who gained wealth in the real estate and mining businesses in the early 1900s. One of her greatest accomplishments was securing pensions for widows. She commissioned construction of the Cosgrove Building in 1913 and it served as office space for various businesses through history. Spiva took over the building in 1996.
Sullivan’s talk coincides with the release of “Coloring JOMO: Women Who Made Their Mark,” a coloring book featuring 12 women from Joplin history who made significant contributions to the community. It includes Cosgrove.
The coloring book is a collaboration among PAL, Historic Murphysburg Preservation Inc. and Visit Joplin. The illustrations are by former Joplin artist Martha Goldman and the micro-biographies are by Sullivan. The books will be available for free at the public library, Joplin Museum Complex, and the Joplin Convention and Visitors Bureau, among other places.
The “Anonymous Women” exhibit runs through Saturday, March 7.