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Designs On Gertrude Stein

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If ever there were the "right" person to compose an opera about women's suffrage, Gertrude Stein was she. Together with Virgil Thomson -– who not only cowrote the opera "The Mother of Us All," but also added Stein as a character after her passing –- the convention-breaking writer wrote more than one opera. Their "Four Saints in Three Acts" is still regularly performed, if not to rave reviews. And Stein's libretti for both "Four Saints" and "Saints and Singing" were recently given new life in Michelle Sutherland's Kickstarter-funded "Saints!" that resets the writer's text with American popular music styles.

But before Sutherland placed Stein's words atop gospel, jazz, rock, country and more musical styles, Robert Indiana designed a visual landscape and costumes for late mid-century productions of "The Mother of Us All." His designs for the set and the costumes created from his drawings are currently on display at the McNay Museum in San Antonio, Texas. Alongside two other Indiana exhibits, one a retrospective and the other focused on his Hartley Elegies, the McNay showcases cut-paper scene designs and six felt costumes from Indiana's work.

The Santa Fe Opera commissioned Robert Indiana to design the costumes and set for its 1976 production of "The Mother of Us All." - ROBERT INDIANA
  • Robert Indiana
  • The Santa Fe Opera commissioned Robert Indiana to design the costumes and set for its 1976 production of "The Mother of Us All."

The Indianapolis Museum of Art's upcoming The Essential Robert Indiana will highlight both Indiana's iconic LOVE and his lesser-known print work. But, increasingly, the diverse range of his art adventures, from basketball courts to a feminist opera, reveal that the graphic simplicity and focus of his work allowed him to break down traditional art barriers. As many other Pop artists turned commercial objects into art, Indiana was infusing everyday settings with the perspective of "high art," possibly due to the humility and skill of a self-described "sign painter."

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