Tim Norris: Illuminating History – Fire and Light
Tim Norris has taught art and art history at Muskegon Community College since 1996. He also serves as co-curator of MCC’s Overbrook Gallery and was the Chair of the Arts and Humanities Department from 2011-13. Prior to MCC, Norris was Curator of Exhibitions and Collections at the Art Center of Battle Creek and an instructor at Western Michigan University and Pikeville University in Kentucky. Through his teaching and his art, Norris is a decades-long contributor to the visual arts community in Western Michigan.
Norris’s long term artistic inspiration lies in the symbols of the past, of their role in helping humanity to explore and articulate history, religion, philosophy, and scientific understanding. He has been particularly interested in the various expressions of fire and light across a range of cultures, including ancient Celtic, Eastern, Middle-Eastern, and Byzantine civilizations. Fire and light are a perfect expression of the artist’s interest in science, technology, and religion, as the two have played central roles in these disciplines for millennia. They have served through their observable, scientific characteristics and as metaphors for the spirit and divinity across cultures. Humanity’s increasing control of the two has allowed for great leaps in technology that continue to advance today. The various expressions of fire and light through the ages are restated and blended in Norris’s painting, a search for a universal understanding of how the human mind translates the world around it.
The physicality of fire has also led to experiments in media, as Norris experiments with charcoal, wood embers, and ash in his painting surface. Fire becomes both symbol and tool in his layered constructions.
Circles and spirals appear prominently in the artist’s compositions, designs found prolifically in nature at the most fundamental atomic levels to the most cosmic. For ancient observers, these geometries became the inspiration for religious expression, from architecture to philosophy to a host of visual symbologies. Within Norris’s paintings, these ancient symbols reappear in references to tomb mounds, henges, kilns, astrological charts, and numerous other incarnations. The ancient nature of these symbols is further heightened by the building and layering of the artist’s materials, which give them a hand-hewn character.
Each painting in the exhibition is accompanied by a description from the artist describing the inspirations that guided the piece. Additionally, Muskegon Museum of Art staff have selected pieces of glass (formed from fire and cherished for its interactions with light) from our permanent collection that resonate with the forms, colors, and ideas within Norris’s paintings. Blending history, technology, and the spiritual and philosophical, these works offer a new look at the mysteries that have intrigued humanity since before recorded history.