Joe Norris - Painted Visions of Nova Scotia

Joe Norris - Painted Visions of Nova Scotia

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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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