Interview with Chloe Norman (C.N) by Emily Newell (E.N)
Walking into Graven Feather to visit Chloe Norman’s exhibition, Guard Your Heart, and talk with the artist about her new show, was an amazing experience. Standing in the center of her photographs that delve into a personal statement – that she is definitely making – was wonderful. Hung against white walls in white frames the photos become such a focal point that one can’t help but be enthralled.
E.N: What do you intend to convey through these works?
C.N: It’s really about my journey as I am maturing into a woman, about that intimate journey. I’m trying to navigate being sexual but with a Christian past. In my earlier works, I had touched on it but I needed more time studying it and I think I can express my sexuality more freely now. The question is always there: is it okay for me to show this kind of sexuality or not?
E.N: In your work you use very soft fabrics wrapped around female forms that are bent and posed to show how sexual and delicate females can be. Who are your models?
C.N: Myself and others. I enjoy working with family members, friends and people I know. I choose the ones who have a resemblance to me, my age, body type, skin-and hair color. Through photographing them I share an intimate experience with them. Some of the shots can be hard on those posing for long periods of time – but well worth the strain and effort for the beauty created.
When the photo includes me, it is done to express something more personal. In that case I use my art as a way of finding a balance within being a woman and being Christian. There is real importance, too, in using other people because I can distance myself a little bit and look at my themes from the outside. I also get some ideas from their bodies about what I can do with mine.
E.N: Your photographs are very passionate. How do you make them? Do you feel an urge sometimes to take a photo right then and there? What inspires you?
C.N: Inspiration comes to me in two different ways. One is that I collect things, so have a prop that I really want to use. For example, for “Cocoon”, I bought that plastic, and I just wanted to use it. The other is urgency, like in “Christen” and “Relief”. In those moments, I was like – I need to take a photograph right now and I’m going to find something that I can use to take that photo. So a sock and a stool or just a sweater that I wear on a daily basis was good enough for that purpose.
E.N: I find the plastic in “Cocoon” interesting because it is a different material than you usually use in your images.
C.N: I think when looking at the photos in front of us, that it is mostly true, but with “Fold” there is a plastic aspect too, with the exercise ball. In, “Tight” it’s nylon as well. So, you’re right, a lot of things I am working with are softer fabrics, cushy and very soft. Those are the things I have found around my home, especially in the bedroom. I saw the plastic at Value Village and thought that it would be beautiful and I just went with it and created “Cocoon”, a major piece in this show. I think it turned out perfectly.
E.N: In “Cocoon” the woman’s hands look as they are floating and are in the focus of the photo. What is the reason for that?
C.N: When I am showing hands I really want to express the feeling of touching or being touched. Something like an intimate touch. It is central to the expression of the images how I, or the other person who is posing, feel those objects, touch them and interact with them.
E.N: Looking at your artist statement your struggle between a feminist and a religious view is very obvious. It must be a great challenge to balance those two in your art and in your life.
C.N: I read a powerful essay before the show, “Hypatia” about how difficult it can be for a woman to navigate to be both Christian and pure but also use her body. I strongly feel that is also can be a very open relationship being both a feminist and a Christian, especially in our times. I think that the best way for me to think about it is as the quest for equality and that what I addressed in Guard Your Heart.
*Exhibition information: October 15 – 31, 2015, Graven Feather, 906 Queen Street West. Gallery hours: Thur – Sat, 12 – 7 p.m.