Artist Interview | Andrew Norris
Become acquainted with perhaps a few unknown dimensions – thoughts, ambitions, wisdoms, life changing moments – of this inspiring artist.
What is your art about?
My work is about the representation of masculinity from my childhood into adulthood. My earliest memory of the expectations of men is based on comic book superheroes, which influenced my understanding that men are supposed to be strong and dominant. As I grew older, I realized that I still had self-esteem issues that were influenced by the visual representation of male bodies–like ones found in fitness and fashion magazines. I work with oil paint on canvas to create compositions of superheroes imposed over male celebrities that exaggerate the ideal macho culture of our society.
What project are you working on now?
I am going off the idea of the work from my series, Toxic Masculinity, and building upon it. I am still very much interested in the male form and painting advertisements found in magazines that promote the toxic manhood ideology. I have stepped away from flat backgrounds and colourful outlines for imagery from pages of my favorite comics growing up. My concepts are still familiar, but I am looking at my work in a more personal way now.
How has your practice changed over time?
In college, I took courses on painting such as the old masters learning the grisaille and the Venetian techniques. This way of painting was a slow process with a conservative outcome of a clean painting. As I continued painting each male figure in the series, I would shorten the process gradually by skipping steps as well as using different underpainting hues. The most prevalent difference in my work now is a shift from a general idea of masculinity to a more personal dialog about my gender expectations.
Creatively, where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Within five years I would have, hopefully, gotten my MFA degree from one of the nine universities I have applied to. I would like to think I would be employed by then as a professor or an adjunct professor, and if not, then work at a gallery or museum.
Describe a real-life experience that inspired you.
During college, I took a trip to Atlanta with a group of artists and went to a few galleries there. I was able to see a Phillip Guston and a Fahamu Pecou at the High Museum which was an incredible experience.
What is your strongest childhood memory?
The best memory that sticks out the most is my school’s book fair, which had a book that contained all of the notable X-men. This allowed me to draw a full body image of many of the characters that are in my work now. I was always drawing; as a kid, I would usually close myself away with my comic books and just draw each character multiple times.
Which place in the world do you find to be the most inspiring?
Of the few places I have been to in this world, upstate New York was a very inspiring place during my art residency. I didn’t do much work there because after graduation I needed a break.
What is your scariest experience?
In college, a group of some friends and I went into the lower levels of a building on campus. The building was abandoned and had a reputation for being haunted. It was around midnight when we went down the stairs, and we took out our phones to record the whole thing as we asked dumb questions. When we came back up we played the recording and a voice yelled back at us when we asked if anyone was there.
What superpower would you like to have and why?
I have always loved water-based abilities like Aquaman’s powers. Even though it’s not as impressive as Superman, there is always a job for Aquaman.
What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?
Other than the obvious paint and brush, it would be music in the background.
Why do you do what you do?
I have found my artwork is a way for me to communicate how I was raised in an environment that encouraged a traditionally straight, male lifestyle. In the south, much like many places across the U.S., there is an assumption that we will stay in our small towns and raise children. There is nothing wrong with living that way; it’s just not for me. I want to challenge those ideas by showing an overdose of maleness that achieves an almost homo-erotic visualization. For me, this environment also establishes that men do not really show their emotions or talk about what they are dealing with; my work helps me express what I am going through and hopefully encourages others.
Andrew Norris was born in 1993 in Kingsport, Tenn. USA, and is currently based in Fall Branch, Tenn. USA. Visit andrewstephennorris.weebly.com.