110 St. Louis Street
West Plains Council on the Arts (WPCA) will host an exhibition titled “King of the Ozarks” by Mountain Grove photographer Joyce McMurtrey in the Gallery at the Center, West Plains Civic Center from September 1 through October 20, 2023. The Gallery, on the mezzanine, is open to the public during regular Civic Center hours.
Like her photographs, Joyce McMurtrey has deep roots in the Missouri Ozarks. A native of Columbia, MO, Joyce has spent the past four decades in Wright County. Together with her husband, Joyce farmed 75 acres of grapes near Mountain Grove. After the birth of her daughter in 1986, Joyce bought a camera. What began as an attempt to capture her family’s life on the farm grew into a passion that can be seen in her powerful portraits of the people and places she calls home.
“King of the Ozarks” began from Joyce’s curiosity to discover more details about an almost mythical person, H. King Davis, and a wish to meet her neighbors. Over four years, the project evolved into a collection of portraits and profiles from interviews Joyce conducted with this multi-generational African American family who’ve farmed in southern Missouri since the Homestead Act.
“Joyce McMurtrey’s work is not about history. She is a keen observer of people and the places where they lived as neighbors and family. In order to share family stories, you must first be a part of one. Joyce’s work, ‘King of the Ozarks: Family Stories’ takes you along the roads where legacies are created and asks us to join in the journey,” says Kathleen Morrissey, President of WPCA.
WPCA will host the Opening Reception for the Ozarks Studies Symposium on Thursday, September 21, 2023, from 5:30-7:00 p.m., in the Gallery at the Center. The “King of the Ozarks” exhibit will be featured. All are invited to attend, meet the artist, and discuss her work. The exhibit is co-sponsored by the West Plains Civic Center and West Plains Council on the Arts, with partial funding provided by Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.
Photo courtesy of Joyce McMurtrey