Meet the Artist: Lynn Norris

By Elise Wantling

Lynn Norris is one of our wonderful artists whose art was featured in our art exhibition co-hosted with InterUrban ArtHouse titled Who Does She Think She Is? I had the pleasure of interviewing Lynn and learning a bit more about her and her art. Lynn is a three-dimensional artist who sews, weaves, and makes jewelry, pottery, and collages. Occasionally, she dabbles in two-dimensional art, which she describes as black and white doodles that “look like a machine just vomited parts up, and it is punctuated by faces and strange creatures that do not exist in real life”. Her work typically features lots of bright and bold color choices.

Lynn has always made art, but began using art as a form of therapy in 2004 at the KC Veterans Center, where she partook in an art therapy group on Friday mornings. Lynn is a survivor of military sexual trauma and copes with PTSD, and uses her art to help with this.

Lynn served in the US Navy from 1983-1987 and is a proud veteran. She was stationed at Pearl Harbor and Barber’s Point Naval Air base. She began by maintaining grounds and conducting VIP tours of the Arizona Memorial, then worked as a security guard at the ASWOC (Anti-Submarine Warfare Operations Center). She eventually became a Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Petty officer and worked in the base photo lab.

Though she enjoyed art, she admits she wasn’t the best at drawing. She started collecting free magazines from the VA Center and noticed they would make great collage material, since they had the colorful and pretty photos. She was taking an abstract art class with a friend through the Raytown school district at the time, and consulted the art teacher, Dennis Helsel. He agreed with her that making collages might be easier for her than drawing. He helped her “figure out how to pull it off” as she says. The first two collages Lynn made were made of totally random clippings. For the third collage she decided she wanted to make one look like a stained glass window, and that was a jumping off point for her. She divided the clippings according to color, then did colored sections highlighted by a paint pen. She’s been using that technique ever since and has made many beautiful pieces inspired by stained glass windows.

One symptom of Lynn’s PTSD is that she has trouble feeling safe, and to deal with that she became obsessively organized and tidy. Her collages are a break from this. Instead of having strict order, she is able to incorporate randomness and chaos into her art. Just the colors are sorted, other than that there is no logic to her arrangements. She even chooses the titles of the pieces by clipping phrases from the magazines and then drawing them out of a hat. The collages have allowed Lynn to let go of her obsessive-compulsiveness and enjoy being in the moment. In her collages, Lynn has found some freedom while also being able to indulge her artistic side.

You can see Lynn’s work, and the work of many other talented artist, in our online tour of the Who Does She Think She Is? Art show. You can also check out more of Lynn’s work on her website, https://mankopowerudcuc.wixsite.com/lessdemented?fbclid=IwAR07lDkfdD9dWYOSnJyzJFqSjnMPpcMSHHS8E_AXJ_SxGrHwwoRob9oGOAI