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Connie Norman

Extra! Extra! Read all about it, in the Casper Star Tribune!

On Friday The Casper Star Tribune featured a story on my show at Casper College. Margaret Matray called me to write the story and we had a lovely conversation. I had no idea that, that conversation was going to lead to a two page spread in the Casper Star. Holy Cow! I was blown away when I saw a copy of the paper. Living two and half hours from Casper it took several stops in Cheyenne before I could a copy. It was very exciting to open the paper in the store to see the gigantic story! Thank Margaret Matray for such an amazing article!

Here’s the story if you want to read it. And if you want to see the scoop on the Casper Star’s website make the jump here.

The Story Of Ceramics, Cheyenne Artists shares memories and secrets through clay.  by Margaret Matray

The phrases stamped into the cups, plates and vessels offer a glimpse into the mind of Connie Norman.The words read like whispers, as if she’s standing there sharing her secrets.

“PROMISE ME.”

“KISS SLOWLY.”

“FIND YOUR VOICE.”

The phrases repeat, stamped over and over again until they’re a block of text on the artwork. They read like a mantra.

“DON’T TAKE YOUR SECRETS TO YOUR GRAVE.”

And like fleeting thoughts.

“DOGS SHOULD BE ALLOWED IN RESTAURANTS AND STORES.”

A 48-piece exhibition of Norman’s work, now open through Sept. 20 at the Casper College Goodstein Art Gallery, showcases the Cheyenne artist’s ceramic cups, plates, bowls and vessels.  Although the pieces featured in “Words at Your Disposal” are functional, they all tell stories and draw on Norman’s personal experiences.

Norman’s exhibition is the first of seven shows to be displayed at the Goodstein Gallery this school year. Artists must submit proposals for consideration, and exhibitions can be booked as many as two years in advance, said gallery director. Norman previously exhibited at the Goodstein Gallery in 2006.

“Connie is consistently exploring new ideas in clay,” said Innella, art history and museum studies professor for Casper College’s Visual Arts Department. “… I think it’s really exciting when an artist is thinking about text as a form of communication through visual art, which is already a very potent form of communication.”

Norman’s work has been featured in exhibits nationally, including Strictly Functional Pottery National, Ceramics USA and the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts. She has been featured on the cover of “Ceramics Monthly” and currently teaches sixth- and seventh-grade art at Carey Junior High School in Cheyenne.

Her interest in pottery came in high school. Six weeks before the end of senior year, Norman wanted out of her home economics class. Her friends were taking pottery, so she started hanging out in their class. Before school, after school and at lunch, Norman made pottery. She had made so many pieces by the end of the year, in fact, the teacher went to the principal to ask if Norman could get a full year’s credit.

She graduated from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, where her work took a turn. Norman intended to perfect her functional pottery but instead shifted to mixed-media sculpture. She used hay and found objects to build her work, which focused on women’s issues.

Married, out of college and with little money, Norman’s husband asked her one Christmas if she could make gifts that year.  “But we can’t give away that weird stuff that you make,” Norman remembered her husband saying.

She returned to functional pottery. At first, she experimented with words as texture and pattern. Norman said she’s always struggled with writing, but as her artwork evolved, she began infusing her ceramics with meaningful phrases. She’s worked in this style for nearly a decade.  “I wanted to make something beautiful that told stories,” Norman said.  Norman’s ceramics reflect her private thoughts and inner dialogue. The words she uses draw on memories, conversations she’s had and phrases she repeats to herself in times of joy or worry.

A large vessel in Norman’s show is split down the middle with a blue line. On the left the words “This is how much I remember” repeat over and over. On the right: “THIS IS HOW MUCH I FORGOT.”  The piece reflects on a time when Norman’s father was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.  “I was really kind of watching him lose what was going on in his world,” Norman said.  When her father died, the chaplain at the funeral asked Norman about her father’s military career. He had been retired for about 15 years at the time.  “I realized I had kind of forgotten his stories,” Norman said.  She made this piece: “IF WE DON’T TELL OUR STORIES NO ONE WILL KNOW.”

The vessel “Invisible strength” was inspired by Norman’s friend who had cancer. And the pieces that say “I’m so lucky” are about her 5-year-old son. Norman and her husband adopted him from Ethiopia. People tell them their son is lucky. Norman replies that she and her husband are the lucky ones; he makes the family complete.  “I try to pick phrases that are universal, that people can kind of bring their own meanings to,” Norman said.

Norman builds all of her pieces instead of throwing them, which means she doesn’t use a pottery wheel. She uses old letterpress type to stamp in her phrases, and the rest of Norman’s work is covered in color, shapes and lines.

A few vessels featured in the Casper show come from earlier years, but Norman made most of the pieces over the summer.  Although the school year has started, Norman finds time at night to work in her studio.

“I didn’t become a professional artist until I became a teacher,” Norman said. “It really inspired me to go home and do what I was preaching all day. There’s something about the energy of school that makes me go home and create.”

 

 

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2 Responses to “Extra! Extra! Read all about it, in the Casper Star Tribune!”

  1. Linda Starr Says:

    What a super article and I like they way you have displayed it here like it’s an ancient artifact. Kudos to you.

  2. Connie Says:

    Hi Linda- It’s an impressive article. I was totally blown away! What a gift I got on Friday!