Coexistence

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Men with Fishing Nets
Spraying
oil on canvas, painting,fishing nets, depicting opposites, relationship with nature,landsape, trees, river, interacting with nature, sustainable model of ecology, sustainability, theory, resources in nature, fishing, fish, nets and fishing, environmental message, playfulness in art, bright palette, colourful palette, black bear, harmony with nature, existing in nature, forest fire chemicals, trees, birds, poison,horse,rabbit, vulnerable creatures, technology, planes, distant, mechanical, close to nature, folk art
description

In Men with Fishing Nets and Spraying, both from the Mendel Art Gallery’s permanent collection, the folk artist Joe Norris has provided us with depictions of two opposing aspects of our complicated relationship with nature.

Fishing TrawlerOn the one hand, in Men with Fishing Nets, we are shown people interacting with nature in a way that doesn’t destroy it. This is known in environmental and political circles as a sustainable model of ecology, one which can, theoretically, continue forever, because it doesn’t use up resources faster than they are produced by nature. Individual people, armed with poles or, in this case, nets catch only a small number of fish from a river. It is likely this form of fishing that the artist was most familiar with in the 1950s and 1960s, in  contrastA large difference between two things. It is a technique often used to create a focal point.  to today’s methods using large ships and gigantic nets to harvest innumerable fish from the ocean.

Despite the environmental message here, there is a playfulness to Norris’ style. Apart from his bright and colourful palette, he incorporates elements from various scenes into a single picture. It is doubtful, for example, that we are to believe that the fishermen are oblivious to the black bear not 10 meters away from them. On the other hand, perhaps this is Norris’ point, that we can exist in harmony with nature, and view it neither as an opponent to fear or one to defeat.

start quoteRough old world.end quote-- Joe Norris

Taking this view further, we see that this artist is also prepared to contemplate humanity’s clumsy and short-sighted relationship to nature in Spraying. The  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  features planes dousing a forest fire with chemicals in order to save the trees. But the pilots of those planes are unaware of the birds and rabbits their chemicals have poisoned. In the foreground, Norris also demonstrates that horses and humans are affected, not directly, but by sharing an environment with the smaller, more vulnerable creatures. Finally, Norris is suggesting that our technology separates us from what is important; as the planes are distant, mechanical, and unconcerned with the damage they cause; people living on the ground close to nature are the ones who realize the scope of the damage.

additional resources Things to Think About
  • Consider your relationship with wildlife around you - mammals, fish, insects, birds, or reptiles. How do you interact with them? Is there anything that you do regularly that might be upsetting them? Is there anything you consume or throw away that might harm them?
  • Scientists say that sometimes forest fires are beneficial.  Do some research to find out why this is so.  Here are some links to get you started:
  • Joe Norris, like many folk artists, is “self-taught,” which means that he has no formal training in the arts. Does this make him a better artist or a worse artist than some of the highly educated artists in the Mendel Art Gallery collection? In your opinion, can he even rightly be called “an artist?” Why or why not? It may be helpful to find examples within art history to back up your argument.
Online Activity
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In some of Norris’s paintings a painted  frameSomething made to enclose a picture or a mirror; or an enclosure composed of parts and joined together; or to make such things. (Artlex.com)  is part of the work.

Studio Activity

Joe Norris is a folk artist.  Folk artThe production of art by untrained amateurs for their own enjoyment. Style in folk art is influenced by a combination of the artist’s culture and art history.  is work that holds  aestheticPertaining to a sense of the beautiful or to the science of aesthetics.  merit and is produced by self-taught artists who have limited awareness of  contemporaryCurrent, belonging to the same period of time. Usually referring to our present time, but can refer to being current with any specified time. (Artlex.com)  and historical art content. Folk artists often use materials at hand and will paint on  functionalRefers to the intended use or purpose of an object. The term is often applied to manufactured products, particularly crafts, and when discussing designs for architecture. Though sometimes said to be non-functional, art is expected to function in various ways, including: to beautify, to adorn, to express, to illustrate, to mediate, to persuade, to record, to redefine reality, to redefine art, to provide therapy, to give unselfconscious experience, to provide paradigms of order and/or chaos, and to train perception of reality. Anything that is not functional is called nonfunctional. Often the decorative qualities of a thing are considered nonfunctional. (Artlex.com)  objects such as chairs, tables and tools.

Paint a  functionalRefers to the intended use or purpose of an object. The term is often applied to manufactured products, particularly crafts, and when discussing designs for architecture. Though sometimes said to be non-functional, art is expected to function in various ways, including: to beautify, to adorn, to express, to illustrate, to mediate, to persuade, to record, to redefine reality, to redefine art, to provide therapy, to give unselfconscious experience, to provide paradigms of order and/or chaos, and to train perception of reality. Anything that is not functional is called nonfunctional. Often the decorative qualities of a thing are considered nonfunctional. (Artlex.com)  object such as a chair, small table or chest using a  folk artThe production of art by untrained amateurs for their own enjoyment. Style in folk art is influenced by a combination of the artist’s culture and art history.   styleA way of doing something. Use of materials, methods of working, design qualities and choice of subject matter reflect the style of the individual, culture, movement, or time period.  and  colourProduced by light of various wavelengths, and when light strikes an object and reflects back to the eyes. Colour is an element of art with three properties: (1) hue or tint, the colour name, e.g., red, yellow, blue, etc.: (2) intensity, the purity and strength of a colour, e.g., bright red or dull red; and (3) value, the lightness or darkness of a colour. When the spectrum is organized as a color wheel, the colours are divided into groups called primary, secondary and intermediate (or tertiary) colours; analogous and complementary, and also as warm and cool colours. Colours can be objectively described as saturated, clear, cool, warm, deep, subdued, grayed, tawny, mat, glossy, monochrome, multicolored, particolored, variegated, or polychromed. Some words used to describe colours are more subjective (subject to personal opinion or taste), such as: exciting, sweet, saccharine, brash, garish, ugly, beautiful, cute, fashionable, pretty, and sublime. Sometimes people speak of colours when they are actually refering to pigments, what they are made of (various natural or synthetic substances), their relative permanence, etc. (Artlex.com)  palette.

  • Learn more about Joe Norris’s work. You can find out more at:

chair

  • Find or purchase a wooden chair, table or chest.
  • Use acrylics to paint the furniture in bright colours.
Studio Activity

Cross-curricular:  Visual art/creative writing/story-telling

Norris often painted his version of the region in which he lived and worked. At times he also painted events concerning the environment that he saw on the news. We can observe both these interests in Men with Fishing Nets and Spraying. Both of these paintings tell a story or contain narrative.

References

Author unknown.  ‘Joe Norris, Represented by Black Sheep Gallery.’  absolutearts.com.  Retrieved from the Internet on May 22, 2008 from:  http://galleries.absolutearts.com/cgi-bin/galleries/show?what=artists&login=blacksheep&id=1252.

Blanchette, Jean-Francois.  From the Heart - Folk Art in Canada.  Toronto, Ontario:  McClelland and Steward, 1983.

Ellwood, Marie Ellwood.  Folk Art of Nova Scotia.  Exhibition catalogue.  Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1976.

Kobayashi, Terry and Michael Bird.  A Compendium of Canadian Folk Artists.  Erin, Ontario:  Mills Press, 1985.

Martin, Ken.  A Life of its own: Chris Huntington and the resurgence of Nova Scotia folk art 1975-1995.  Exhibition catalogue.  Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1997.

McKendry, Blake.  An Illustrated Companion to Canadian Folk Art.  Toronto, Ontario:  B. McKendry, 1999.

Riordon, Bernard.  Nova Scotia Folk Art - Canada's Cultural Heritage.  Exhibition catalogue.  Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1989.

---.  Joe Norris: Painted Visions of Nova Scotia.  Exhibition catalogue.  Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 2000.

---.  Canadian Folk Art from the  CollectionTo collect is to accumulate objects. A collection is an accumulation of objects. A collector is a person who makes a collection. (Artlex.com)  of Susan A. Murray.  Exhibition catalogue.  Beaverbrook Gallery, Fredericton, New Brunswick, 2007.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning