Heidi Norton’s work presents nature in a suspended state. This summer, Norton is producing a multi-part installation consisting of custom-made window inserts, sculptural objects, interactive hot houses and living plants. Her new show, Prismatic Nature, is on view at Elmhurst Art Museum June 7 – August 24, 2014. The opening reception is Friday, June 6 at 6:30 pm. Elmhurst Art Museum is located just 14 miles from downtown Chicago and is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday, and 12-5 p.m. on Sunday. A list of exhibition-related public programs follows at the end of this release. For more information please visit www.elmhurstartmuseum.org.
Inspired by Elmhurst Art Museum’s history and park setting, its light-filled, glass-enclosed architecture and its relationship to modernism, Norton’s project will fill Hostetler Gallery, Mies van der Rohe’s McCormick House and the corridor that links these two prominent and transparent spaces. As EAM’s second artist-in-residence, Norton is developing several public programs focused on ecology, gardening and photography and designing a Field Guide to Elmhurst, a takeaway map and self-guided tour that locates and describes places, objects and histories related to her exhibition.
Norton’s artistic practice, informed by her 1970’s upbringing as a child of New Age homesteaders in West Virginia, reveals her deep connection to the land, plant life and nature. Her sculptural work seeks to “preserve” and present organic materials by encasing them in glass, wax, resin and paint, often resembling enlarged microscope slides of scientific specimens. Though they may seem fixed, the resulting constructions change as the plants decay, alluding to Norton’s interest in transformation and the passage of time. When placed into the window bays, the transparent screens punctuated with plant segments, photographs and other ephemera become a mutable threshold marking the surface of the building while visually merging what is inside and what is out.
Mies van der Rohe stated that, “Nature, too, shall live its own life. We must beware not to disrupt it with the color of our houses and interior fittings. Yet we should attempt to bring nature, houses and human beings together into a higher unity.” Sharing Mies’ awareness of the relationship between nature and architecture, Norton explores how these worlds, often seen as polarities, can work together harmoniously. In converting the McCormick House into a combination greenhouse/sunroom/library/museum by comingling indigenous plants, mineral specimens from the Lizzadro Museum, books, modernist furniture and her own artwork, Norton creates a hybrid space of light and knowledge.
A series of hot houses designed to resemble Mies’ architecture will contain plants, seeds, rocks and other gardening resources and become an outpost that connects museum visitors and local residents. The public is encouraged to swap seeds and stories over the course of the exhibition. In Norton’s words, “Plants bring people together–for caring, for harvest, for cooking–they are communal.”
Events and Workshops
Saturday, June 21, 2pm
Summer Solstice Celebration – Planting by the Signs
Heidi Norton invites visitors and community members to assist in building a small urban garden on the EAM grounds. Using Firefox Books (1972) as a guide, she will discuss and demonstrate planting by phases of the moon and the signs of the zodiac. Free with Museum admission.
Sunday, July 13, 2pm
Artist Talk by Heidi Norton
Hear Heidi Norton discuss the many components of her plant-focused installation at EAM and her myriad influences ranging from Charles Darwin to the Bauhaus to New Ageism. This special Artist Talk is scheduled to coincide with the 19th annual Elmhurst Garden Walk and Faire. For tickets and details, visit www.elmhurstgardenwalk.com. EAM will offer FREE ADMISSION to visitors with an Elmhurst Garden Walk Guide Book on the day of the walk!
Saturday, July 26, 11am
Explore Elmhurst with Heidi Norton
Heidi Norton will use her Field Guide to lead guests on a unique, fun and informative walking tour of Elmhurst, visiting nearby nature-based sites. Stops include the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art, the Arboretum at Elmhurst College, public gardens and more. Wear comfortable shoes! Free with Museum admission.
Saturday, August 9, 11am
Anthotype and Sun Print Workshop with Heidi Norton
Heidi Norton will lead a demonstration on how to make prints using plant material as emulsion and the sun. Norton and students will forage the landscape for plants of various colors and use different coating and sun exposure techniques to make contact photographic prints. Free with Museum admission.