Long after I saw Yanique Norman’s drawings for the first time, I was still avoiding her nightmarish conjurings inspired by that most brutish of depredations, American slavery. No other artist’s work in Noplaceness: Art in a Post-Urban Landscape, a 2011 book I photo-edited, disturbed me the way hers did. Only in the course of preparing to talk with Norman in the StoryCorps booth did I reacquaint myself with her imagery and, at last, react to it in a sense beyond the visceral.
2017A native of Spanish Town, Jamaica, Norman relocated to Brooklyn as a preteen. In her late teens she moved to Atlanta with her mother. Norman began to draw as a response to deep depression and homesickness she felt in Georgia. Some of her earliest exhibitions occurred on the campuses of Agnes Scott College and Georgia State University in 2010. By the time Norman’s 2011 solo show, Middle Passage Redux, opened at Sandler Hudson Gallery, her project to “find a way to paint the black subconscious” was clearly well under way.
During 2013 Norman’s work appeared in important group shows at Hammonds House Museum and the High Museum of Art. In 2014 GSU’s Liquid Blackness Symposium and its online journal devoted significant attention to her “bulging amorphous shapes” that signify “the weight of epidermalization and colonial history.” That same year Norman earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at GSU. She followed that accomplishment by serving residencies at the Hambidge Center and Atlanta Printmakers Studio, and by winning an Idea Capital Grant and a Walthall Artist Fellowship. At the time of our talk, Norman was pursuing her MFA through the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; her most recent exhibitions were a solo show at Atlanta Contemporary, Coolidge Antiquitas: Wasting Your Beautiful Mind, and the group show P.O.V. at Swan Coach House Gallery. At the time of this writing, a chapbook that she and Chanel Kim are basing upon Norman’s poetry blog, Les Bossip Mademoiselles, remained in development.[Edited and condensed from an hourlong session].
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