Goose Lane Editions and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia have
released the first comprehensive book on the art of Joe Norris, one
of Canada's greatest folk artists. The book was published in
conjunction with a major show of Norris's work which opened
November 25, 2000 at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and toured the
country through 2003. Joe Norris was one of Nova Scotia's greatest
folk artists. He was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and lived in
Lower Prospect, Halifax County. For much of his life, he worked as
a fisherman and construction worker. At the age of 49, a severe
heart attack forced him into retirement and, at the encouragement
of a visiting nurse who provided him with materials and prodded him
to do a little painting each day, he began to make pictures for
himself and for friends. Joe Norris is probably best known for his
brilliantly coloured scenes of the rocky coves of Nova Scotia, his
paintings of seagulls (sitting on islands or sprinkled about the
cove), his hot pink horizons, animals and ships, his paintings of
winter night scenes, invariably (and appropriately) titled "Starry
Night." His work appears on traditional canvas or panel, but also
on picture frames, tables, rocking chairs, stools, chests of
drawers, and even fireplace mantels. The cove scenes and seagull
paintings of Joe Norris have become icons of Nova Scotia over the
past quarter century and many people consider the artist to be a
national treasure. During his lifetime, his work was represented by
Houston North Galleries and the Mira Godard Gallery and is now
included in many private and public collections, including the
Canadian Museum of Civilization and the McMichael Collection. Joe
Norris embodied the free and lively spirit of folk artists who work
outside the mainstream, free of any preconceived notions of what
art ought to be. His simple paintings arouse feelings of joy in all
but the most jaded viewers and provide a window open to his
tranquil, but captivating, kingdom by the sea. This tribute to Joe
Norris chronicles his life and work in the little fishing village
of Lower Prospect, Nova Scotia, twenty-five kilometres and a
lifetime away from Halifax. The book features almost 100 colour
reproductions of his paintings, a dozen or more documentary
photographs, text by Bernard Riordon that places Joe Norris and his
work within the context of North American folk art, and shorter
essays by Chris Huntington, John Houston, and Philip Brooks.
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