Carolyn Norris shows artwork at blues exhibit
by Haley Ferretti
Sep 01, 2013 | 2788 views | 0 0 comments | 181 181 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Greenville Arts Council opened its annual blues culture exhibit, titled "POSTERS, PAINTINGS, PHOTOS," which features Cleveland artist Carolyn Norris, as well as others who highlight Mississippi's rich and colorful blues culture.

The exhibit opened Aug. 23 in the Roger D. Malkin Gallery and will continue through Oct. 21.

The artwork includes many Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival posters from over the years, Norris's blues paintings, and a series of photographs, titled "Gone But Not Forgotten" by Highway 61 Blues Museum Director Billy Johnson.

According to Executive Director of the Greenville Arts Council MacKenzie Stroh, the exhibit features work she believes will encourage people to attend future blues festivals.

"During this year's exhibit," said Stroh, "we wanted to make sure that we were providing a venue to highlight the upcoming musical festivals in Greenville, the 36th Annual Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival, and the Mighty Mississippi Music Festival."

Throughout the years blues music and art in the Mississippi Delta have always seemed to overlap. Stroh believes there is a natural reason for this occurrence.

"Artists are constantly pulling from their surroundings," said Stroh. "I think this is why oftentimes in the Mississippi Delta artists are moved by the work of blues musicians as well as the landscape, the history, people, and culture. Artists, like Carolyn Norris, are greatly influenced by the history of the Delta and the blues is a large part of that history."

Norris, who was featured in the book “Spirit of the Delta: The Art of Carolyn Norris” by Dorothy Shawhan, was raised in West Virginia but moved to Cleveland at the age of 21. Throughout the years Norris has used a variety of media in order to document daily life in the black community and to chronicle community events.

Norris described the relationship between art and the blues as a "rhythm" and explained how people connect through that relationship.

"It's like a dance, and it starts from the inside and moves out," said Norris. "It's a feeling you get from the blues, that you've experienced some of those same downfalls."

Many present-day artists continue to connect with the blues, a musical genre that is heavily influenced by the past.

"They (present-day artists) get it," said Norris. "They feel it, even now. The blues is an expression of a feeling. You may not feel happy. You turn on the blues and you connect."

Norris also expressed hope for the future of blues-influenced art and that her work will inspire the younger generation to take interest in blues culture.

"I want more people to become more involved in blues culture, what makes Southern people unique, and to take time to pass on the talent," said Norris. "You have to give something back in order to get something. I'm trying to do something to give back to our culture. I'm not chasing money — I'm chasing other people's dreams. Yes sir! You have to have something in this world to hold onto — my art, that's my sanity."