Craig Norton began his career in art by selling decorated flowerpots in front of nightclubs while working as a bouncer. This self taught artist now utilizes drawing, photography, and collage in his exploration of controversial issues in history, politics, and religion. Lacking any formal artistic training, Norton’s work has a sincerity that shuns conceptuality in favor of a more honest and direct approach.
Norton’s exhibition, Bitter Crop, investigates social injustices that took place throughout the American Civil Rights Movement and is now on display at OKOK Gallery in Seattle. This mixed media installation confronts historical acts of inhumanity such as lynchings, segregationist rallies, and Ku Klux Klan activities. The main wall of the gallery is covered with a collage of over fifty individuals in the midst of protest, complete with familiar scenes of police brutality and civil unrest. The artist draws the faces of the figures, often in the midst of screams, with a cheap Bic pen. He then attaches these photorealistic portraits to bodies composed of wallpaper samples. The unconventional mix of materials creates a palpable tension that mimics our emotional guilt and unease surrounding those circumstances, which is now intensified given the advantage of our historical perspective.
Norton cites the text Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America as one of his main research sources. His previous work includes a large series based on the genocide in Rwanda and the Holocaust. Norton has exhibited at outsider art fairs in New York and Chicago. Portions of this body of work were first exhibited at White Flag Projects, a non-profit art space in St. Louis, Missouri where the artist currently lives and works.