Over the hill in an isolated part of Missouri appears a light, its origins unknown, coming from seemingly nowhere. The ball of light can be seen on chance evenings deep in Ozark country, bounding down an abandoned road. In the Devils Promenade region of the Ozarks, falling between Missouri and Oklahoma, locals all know about the phenomenon known as the “Spook Light,” the origins of which date as far back as the 1830s.
Laura Shipley, a photographer and native to rural Missouri, captures the essence of the Spook Light legend in her 2013 photographs, “In the Ozarks There are Lights and False Light.” While some Ozark residents go searching for the mysterious glow of the Spook Light, others feel threatened or frightened by its presence. Shipley’s work, in her collection of photographs titled “Devils Promenade,” ties together folklore, oral history, and fictional stories from the area, bringing light to the inhabitants of this isolated community.
“In the Ozarks There are Lights” and “False Light” are two pieces included within the “Women to Watch—Organic Matters” exhibition currently on display at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA). “Women to Watch” is a biennial series presented by the museum that features emerging or underrepresented female artists from around the globe. For “Organic Matters,” NMWA staff selected 20 pieces representing 13 artists, all of whose work focuses on the theme of nature. From photographs to drawings and sculptures to video, these 13 women all bring a variety of perspectives on the complex relationship with the natural world.
“Super Natural,” a second exhibition presented concurrently with Women to Watch—Organic Matters, explores historical and contemporary interpretations of nature. Separated into three distinctive categories—flora, fauna, and Mother Earth anew—more than 50 works created by 25 female artists are featured in the exhibition that asks museum visitors “what is natural?” Pieces on display range from the traditional to the avant-garde: created in 1719, more than 26 engraved images from Swiss artist Maria Sibylla Merian hang in the gallery, depicting up-close compositions of species native to Suriname; Sharon Core, a contemporary photographer from the United States, meticulously creates and photographs realistic-looking roses from pigs’ ears (as featured in her 1997 piece, “Single Rose”).
Women to Watch—Organic Matters and Super Natural are on display at NMWA through September 13. Additional information about the exhibitions can be found on the NMWA website: http://nmwa.org/exhibitions/organic-matters and http://nmwa.org/exhibitions/super-natural.
NMWA was incorporated as a private, nonprofit museum in 1981, opening its doors to the public in its current location on New York Avenue in 1987; NMWA is the only museum in the world whose sole focus is on celebrating the accomplishments of female artists. The Junior League of Washington has been associated with NMWA since 1983; today, 24 women from the League serve as visitor experience volunteers, staffing the information desk, leading conversation-piece discussions and tours, and supporting the museum at a variety of events.
Please contact NMWA Committee Chair, Lori Vitelozzi, at email@example.com with any questions about the committee.