"Target Practice-Take This Take That!": Exploring the Power of Words through the Art of Joseph Norman: For Pre-Kindergarten through 4th Grade

By Taylor, Pamela G. | Art Education, May 2003 | Go to article overview

"Target Practice-Take This Take That!": Exploring the Power of Words through the Art of Joseph Norman: For Pre-Kindergarten through 4th Grade


Taylor, Pamela G., Art Education


Introduction

Joseph Norman is a contemporary artist who deals with complicated societal issues in his paintings, drawings, and lithographs. In a sensitive and metaphorical manner Norman challenges the viewers of his art to reflect upon their view of and participation in racism, sexism, and discrimination in their human relationships. In the series "Target Practice-Take this Take that!"1 Norman employs images of twisted nails and menacing hammers to reflect the vulnerability of our human hearts when bearing or dispensing hurtful tirades and explications. From family and friends to lovers and strangers, Norman's metaphor is poignant to human beings of all ages and types of relationships. Words, whether spoken, written, or visually implicated, are powerful forms of human communication and their effects last forever. In Norman's words, "When you get into an argument, you inevitably begin targeting the same issues over and over again. You use the same painful words. And like hammers and nails, you drive them into the heart. When the argument is over, you may both apologize. But the damage is done and will remain as a scar, just as when you pull the nails out of the wood, the injurious holes remain" (personal communication, March 22, 2002). Norman's "Target Practice-Take this Take that!" extends and connects interpretive and autobiographical criticism processes to meaningful art-making activities for early childhood and elementary art education classes.

Objectives and Overview

Students will observe and discuss Joseph Norman's "Target Practice-Take this! Take that!" Through a variety of art-making projects, students will develop metaphors, symbols, and visual practices that represent the value of "thinking before speaking."

About the Artist

Joseph Norman, born March 9, 1957, grew up as a relatively poor child in a tiny neighborhood that lay between a large public housing project and a dilapidated industrial area of the south side of Chicago. From an early age, Norman struggled with the social complications of race and class. Street gangs were a constant threat and enticement. Fences and borders kept him in and out. The ever-present threat of profiling practices of city police kept him angry. Norman was a lucky child of the neighborhood, however, as his family was close and supportive. Barry Gaither (2002), of the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists, writes:

As Norman sought to find his way forward, several options looked enticing to him. From an early age, he enjoyed drawing and was good at it. His mother, and his family more generally, encouraged his interest in art, and the good luck of having a friend whose brother was an African American commercial illustrator cemented his vision of himself as an artist. Physically large and muscular, Norman was also an excellent athlete. He excelled at football winning an athletic scholarship to Central State University in Ohio in 1975, yet in the end, it was a more restrained pursuit that claimed his attention. Art making touched something in his spirit. (p. 19)

Joseph Norman received his M.F.A. in drawing from the University of Cincinnati. He also holds an M.A. in art education from the University of Illinois and a B.S. in art education from the University of Arkansas. Solo shows of his work have been held at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston; the Museo de Arte in San Jose, Costa Rica; the Butler Institute of American Art in Ohio; and numerous university galleries. Norman's artwork is included in the major collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC., the National Museum of American Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Fogg Museum of Art at Harvard University, other prestigious university galleries such as the Rhode Island School of Design, Brown University, and Fisk University, and numerous corporate and private collections including Harpo Productions.2

Discussion Strategies3

* Identify the objects in the work of art and describe their purposes. …

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