The Opera Project

  • Theatrical
  • Multimedia
  • Collaboration
  • Sabiha Mujtaba
  • Sheena Graham-George
  • Jen Townsend

About the Opera Project:


In 2009 I began working on a series of neckpieces inspired by the opera. I have always loved opera’s theatricality and overblown gestures, but my favorite part is that every performance is a new experience. Because of the many people and visions involved in its production, it is, by its very nature, a living art form. It is in this spirit that The Opera Project was born.

I am making seven neckpieces featuring female characters from different operas. These neckpieces feature a central figure rendered in the full round, but like an actual production, one character is only part of the story...

I am collaborating with two other artists on this project. Sabiha Mujtaba is a fine woodworker who I met while we were teaching at The Penland School of Crafts. She is building elaborate wooden triptychs to house my neckpieces. The triptychs act as opera house and stage. They are internally lit, and are works of art in their own right. They feature interior “set” panels that will be painted by Sheena Graham-George. Sheena and I met at graduate school and have worked together in the past to great success. Sheena is multi-media artist, but her roots lie in narrative painting. Sheena’s paintings always delight me with their rich jewel tones, beautiful patterns and quirky creative imagery. Collaboration is exciting in the exchange of ideas, the relinquishing of control and the embracing of others’ strengths and visions. The union of materials and processes in these finished works will be something impossible to achieve by a single artist, and the result will be thrilling, dynamic and larger than life... just like an opera.

This is a long-term collaboration and will take several years to complete. In my studio, this work has become a constant background activity that I indulge whenever I can. It’s fun to work with Sheena and Sabiha and our excitement is building as we progress.

I’ve also been making videos that document the creation of each neckpiece. I have come to love this way of recording my process and sharing my vision. The movies have garnered a wonderful response from artists and art enthusiasts alike. Make sure your sound is on. Enjoy!