“Emile Norman: By His Own Design”
Portrait of the Artist
Many of you may not know who Emile Norman is and quite frankly neither did I until I saw “Emile Norman: By His Own Design”. He is well known in the Bay Area of California and it seems that his art is more famous than he is. After seeing this film is not likely that I will ever forget this man—he is an icon. It is the goal of filmmaker Will Parrinello and producers Jill Eikenberry and Michael Tucker that the name Emile Norman be recognized fro here on out.
Emile Norman is now 88 years old and he lives in Big Sur. He has worked in many media of art but for the last 30 years, he seems to have concerned himself with creating animal sculpture from wood inlay. You might think, from what I have written so far, that this is a film about art and it is but it is also a love story—it looks at the 30 year relationship between the artist and his late partner, Brooks Clement as well as the artist’s spirit and will and his ability to inspire others.
To Norman, creating art is a way of life and he feels that it is a calling and this calling is shown beautifully in this film which came about after Tucker and Eikenberry bought land from him in 1991.. They felt the world should know about the artist but Norman felt it was the art and not the man that held importance.
The director had never heard of Norman but Tucker and Eikenberry told him much that he needed to know and Parrinello found a man who had the dedication to create art from a young age. He was also a frontrunner of the gay community and lived an openly gay life before it was considered to be acceptable in any way. He found success in New York but then left the art scene. Norman says he has never worked a day in his life yet spends everyday in his studio. Some of those who know his work look at him as an American Picasso. His artwork has greatness in that it we see our lives in it and the freshness of it awakens us. He sensuousness of it is breathtaking and we all should become more acquainted with it.
Norman is dedicated to his personal vision—one that often was not the same as the times in which it was created. He buffered all and made his own way and created art that is as relevant today as it was when it was created. He never stops working and after seeing this beautiful and dynamic film I am sure that I will never forget Emile Norman. The man is exciting, his art is wonderful and the love story that underlies the film is something of rare beauty. With Clement, he built a home of love and is also a work of art, itself. He also built a life with another man at a time when a relationship of this kind—two men—was extremely difficult. There are surely other hidden gay people in our history and it is time we found out about them. Hopefully this movie is a step in that direction.