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King of the Ozarks’ show to feature Mtn. Grove photographer


The West Plains Council on the Arts will host an exhibition, “King of the Ozarks,” by Mtn. Grove photographer Joyce McMurtrey Sept. 1 through Oc.t 20 in the gallery on the mezzanine at the West Plains Civic Center. The gallery is open during regular civic center hours. 

Like her photographs, Joyce McMurtrey has deep roots in the Missouri Ozarks. A native of Columbia, McMurtrey has spent the past four decades in Wright County. Together with her husband, she farmed 75 acres of grapes near Mtn. Grove.

After the birth of her daughter in 1986, McMurtrey 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 multigenerational 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,” said arts council president Kathleen Morrisey. “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.”

WPCA will host the opening reception for the Ozarks Studies Symposium from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Sept. 21 in the gallery, where the “King of the Ozarks” exhibit will be featured. All are invited to attend, meet the artist and discuss her work. 

The exhibit is cosponsored by the West Plains Civic Center and West Plains Council on the Arts, with partial funding provided by Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.