In 1967, artist Robert Indiana produced these designs to inform costumes and stage sets for a production of The Mother of Us All, a Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein opera. The production was revived with Indiana’s designs at the Santa Fe Opera to celebrate the United States Bicentennial in 1976. The opera chronicles the life of Susan B. Anthony and portrays the fight for women’s suffrage in the United States. 2020 marks the 100-year anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Constitutional amendment, which legally secured the right to vote for women. This amendment was a major step towards the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which more directly combatted voter suppression of marginalized groups.
In these hand-cut paper artworks, Indiana utilized the same saturated colors and simplified geometries of his paintings and sculptures. Sharing Gertrude Stein’s love for language, and reinforcing his pursuit of an American essence in art, Indiana used his characteristic stencil-like lettering to decorate the costumes, props, and stage sets that illuminate The Mother of Us All.