Grant Wood Art Colony – Tameka Norris

Grant Wood Art Colony – Tameka Norris


(light music) – My name’s Tameka Jenean Norris. I’m a visual artist. I am the 2016-17 Grant Wood Fellow and visiting assistant professor here at the University of Iowa. This is sort of what my studio looks like. There’s typically stuff piled, and thrown, and sprawled everywhere. So there’s some bean bags
here that are for sitting, but they’re also soft sculptures. Thinking a lot about, it
looks like little curly balls, and it’s a perspective
of the top of my hair, a different hairstyle, my curly hair. Thinking about people’s
need or desire to touch or engage with big hair or different hair. And then there’s this
other sort of painting, a woven painting. So actually thinking about
having braided hair right now, and actually the braiding of the fabric. This idea of thinking about,
even girlhood, and motherhood, and caring for, and the nature
of braiding and doing hair. And thinking about even
something like cultural capital, the idea that, like, what’s good about knowing how to braid hair? Well, in a certain community, braiding hair is really important because it puts you in front of the matriarchs of any community. So you get the gossip, you get the scoop, you get the goings on
of whatever is happening in that particular community. So it’s like a good skill to have. I have to admit, I didn’t know a whole lot more beyond American Gothic, but there were a few
other works that certainly I’d seen in museums,
and I’m certainly aware. But I didn’t really know the
complexities of who he was. And actually it became even more enticing thinking about my own
relationship to the South. On one hand, I lived in
the South for a long time, but I also stand out when I’m there. So it’s like my beloved place, but the place doesn’t have
the same relationship to me that I have to it. And so I feel like that’s
sort of also something that Grant Wood experienced. Having the support of the University, having benefits that allow me
to be a little bit at ease, to just free up my mind,
to sort of do research and think more freely has
been something that’s been really critical in this process. I can be more risky with my money and sort of invest in my work in a way that I haven’t been
able to do in the past. And just immersing myself in, you know, being present has just changed
my life, not just my work. I find it really important as an artist to be at different
residencies where I am meeting different artists that
have different lifestyles than I have. So it’s just great to also see how other people do their research
and how they practice. So one of the other fellows
lives below me and is a dancer, and I often hear clunky, smooth,
slippery sounds downstairs thinking oh, okay, it’s you know, any time of the night or day, in a very exciting way, I
hear him working through ideas or practicing something and it’s just, it’s really exciting to
watch how other people use their time, how they
think about their work, the hours that they’re working, the types of conversations that we’ve had, not just about our work but about life. And it’s been really exciting. I will be more than likely taking an offer as a assistant professor here
at the University of Iowa. So, yeah, so that’s
really, really exciting. I think the new building, so
I think it was very timely that actually I got here
the year that the building was actually erected and used. So I think there’s something about being a part of something new
that was really exciting. So I really want to be
a part of a community that I can build, and
when I got to Cedar Rapids and here at Iowa City, I
just felt like my voice was useful here and not
only useful but welcomed. And that’s really important.

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