Behind the Diva: Art Installation at Fresh Arts


Who doesn’t want to know what’s behind the diva? In a performance installation at Fresh Arts titled “No Matter How Hard I Try I Can’t Look the Same as I Did Yesterday,” Soprano Lisa Harris offers a glimpse at what happens behind the scenes—and the mystery is worth the time.

Harris’ Friday night performance, “Memory,” was the first of two installations at Fresh Arts. “Being Alive,” the anticipated second part, will follow on September 20.

Located at the edge of a railroad, the space in Fresh Arts uniquely captures the artistic environment of Houston itself. Those entering the space were greeted by long black velvet curtains draped over the floor, an old baby grand piano, and a vanity surrounded by characteristic light bulbs. A small space without carpet, all sound bounces off the walls, making the space an ultimate site for Harris’ rich soprano voice.

Strategically, the installation revealed the inner consciousness of a performer. Before Harris entered the space, a video projection of her singing “Memory” dressed in a white cat costume as a child hit one wall. On two other walls were a collage of more recent pictures of Harris, dressed and undressed, so to speak, as a performer. In a circle surrounding a pillar in the center of the room were phrases marking the inevitable identity crises of any performer from “Inflated or Heroic Act” to “Wounding, Dismemberment” and “Alienated Ego.”

When Harris did enter the space, she went straight to the piano. Harris looked through Cole Porter sheet music and a Cats score, talking to herself about each piece as though entirely alone. She made no eye contact with the audience, reinforcing the concept that the audience was allowed into a singer’s intimate experience while still invisible. Later, Harris explained she wanted to show the “psychology of the dressing room” where the performer puts on a new identity like one might a new dress.

When Harris moved across the room from the piano to her mirrored vanity, she pulled her audience deeper into her consciousness while repeatedly rehearsing phrases like “Hi, I’m Lisa Harris and I’d like to sing for you today” in the mirror. As she brushed on makeup and threw her hair under a bright, golden-sequined hat, the audience watched itself reflected in the mirror behind her.

Harris took up her last position by her pianist, Kathy Elder, to “warm up” before she presumably took the stage. Opening with “Memory,” Harris’ voice—full of passion and technically superb— inevitably stole this show. After a round with Stephen Sondheim’s “So Many People” and “Send in the Clowns,” Harris brought supreme poignancy to the installation with the Funny Girl Barbara Streisand classic: “People.” While a train rumbled by outside, Harris let this song capture the night’s sentiment as the veil of the performer fell to reveal the person underneath.

The second and final installation happens next Friday, September 20 from 6-8pm at 2101 Winter St. For more info, check this out: