EMILE NORMAN, an American artist, was born on this date (d: 2009); an iconoclastic California artist known for mosaics, panels, jewelry and sculpture with a meticulous attention to detail. Norman grew up on a San Gabriel Valley walnut farm and from an early age exhibited artistic talent. He began his professional career fashioning window displays for Bullocks Wilshire in Los Angeles and later Bergdorf Goodman, Bonwit teller, and other New York department stores. In New York, Norman’s work was featured in Vogue — and he first displayed an affinity for working in plastic.
Norman was featured in a November1944 New York Times article, Plastics Shown in Decorative Role, covering the opening of his exhibit at the Pendleton Gallery. His lifetime body of work includes sculpture, mosaic, jewelry and other forms — and most prominently the large mosaic window for the Masonic Center in San Francisco along with an assemblage of exterior stone sculptures.
Norman often uses an innovative technique bringing together his own admixture of epoxy-resin, crushed glass, plastic or wood — creating an effect not dissimilar to cloisonné or stained glass. The effect is especially unusual when Norman crafts the layered effect over a wax form which when later melted away leaves behind a three-dimensional sculpture.
Since 1946, Norman lived and worked at his studio-home in Big Sur on Pfeiffer Ridge — where he lived and worked with his partner Brooks Clement until his death in 2009 from cancer. Norman lived at his ranch in Big Sur, along with his nephew and his nephew’s partner, who took care of him.
Norman is the subject of a 2008 PBS documentary, Emile Norman: By His Own Design, produced by L.A. Law actors Michael Tucker and Jill Eikenberry, directed by Will Parrinello.