Fleeting moments of beauty
In the 1970s, longtime local Joan Norris and her mother traveled to Europe visiting art galleries. Norris left the Tate Gallery in Britain weeping, “I want to be on the wall.”Working as a guide at the Denver Art Museum, Norris had been on the wrong side of the wall. So she enrolled in art school and has been hooked on life’s splendor ever since.”There’s a lot of crying and suffering going on during art school,” Norris said. “You think, ‘why am I doing this? What I am going to do with all these paintings?’ You need a fortitude to stay with it.”
Norris, who lives in Vail and has a studio in Red Cliff, paints plein-air, which means she’s outside observing natural light and color. Photographs are too flat for Norris.”I don’t think people appreciate the difficulty of plein-air painting. You’re out their with the insects and the sun and the wind that can blow your canvas like a sail,” Norris said.Norris’ “In Love With Flowers” exhibit is now on the walls at the Avon Library. The flowers’ colors and transitory beauty entice Norris.
“I’m just knocked out by the color,” Norris said. “You have to paint them before the beauty fades.”Norris’ penchant for hot colors surface in her paintings of poppies, hollyhocks and geraniums. Oranges and deep pinks transport you from the canvas to a High Country garden. Norris doesn’t paint wildflowers because their pedals and stems are too small. She loves big shapes; it allows her full immersion into the flower.”I’m not a detail person. That ends up being my style,” Norris said. “I want the feel of the stroke, feel of the shape and the experience of it.”
Norris, who has taught art in the mountains for 18 years, said the process of creation is most important. You have to find a style that is true to yourself, she said, and not try to copy someone else’s. “My art is easy-pleasing art. There’s no political or ethical confrontation,” Norris said. “I’m happy to deal with subject matter that is beautiful. That’s who I am. The other aspects of life are just too tormenting and distressing.”
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As shock and outrage over George Floyd’s killing swept the nation over the weekend, even the luxurious streets of Vail Village were not insulated from pressure boiling over in the form of demonstrations.