Featured Artist: Taylor Norris on their artistic style, what it's like being a nonbinary artist

Jonathan Roberts • Dec 15, 2019 at 9:39 PM

Art has been a part of Taylor Norris’ life for as long as they can remember. 

Norris’ father was an artist, so painting and drawing was a childhood mainstay. Art didn’t really become a serious endeavor for Norris until their junior year of high school, however.

Since then, Norris has been painting and attending shows and galleries for about a decade, having gotten a Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts from East Tennessee State University in 2013.

In November, the Johnson City Press caught up with Norris at the Willow Tree Coffee House’s seventh annual Shop Local Art and Crafts Market.

Norris briefly: 

Favorite movie: The Muppet Movie or The Dark Crystal

Favorite artist: Rebecca Sugar

Biggest inspiration: Cartoons and children's book illustration

Favorite local restaurant: Tomy Thai

Favorite color: neon pink

How do you feel, as an artist, seeing Johnson City's arts scene changing so much?

I didn't know it was changing! I started school at ETSU for my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2009 and have been showing work in galleries and pop up shows in Johnson City pretty much since then. The only thing I've really noticed that's changed is how I feel about academia. Now, I feel much more connected to my community and gain more personal fulfillment from showing my work in more accessible places.

What's your favorite part about local craft/art shows like the one at the Willow Tree?

I absolutely love doing local pop-up shows because I feel it's a more direct way for people to see art. More people should have intriguing, creative, and local art on their walls. Not a lot of people go to art galleries, though, and most pieces hanging in them are far beyond the average persons' price range. My work is very labor intensive and I believe I should be paid fairly for it, but I also look for ways to make it affordable by making prints and sticker versions.

Tell me about your favorite work of art you made, and why it's important to you.

That would have to be a large Pokémon fanart painting I did for my fiancé about a year and a half ago. He loves the fire Pokémon Charmander, and I had told him about a dream I had of Charmander sailors on a ship at sea during a storm. Charmanders' tails are perpetually on fire and if they go out, they die. I interpreted my dream as being about determination as well as a sense of adventure despite any dangers you might face, and those ideas resonated with both of us. I made it into a painting for his birthday.

How did you develop your artistic style?

Lots and lots of experimentation! It's cheesy, but sometimes I like to think of myself as a mad scientist when I'm in the studio. It's such a thrill to work with media like ripped paper and glitter, and to create something beautiful and sophisticated from something that isn't just paint. My subject matter tends to be surreal and fantastical, directly inspired from the ripped up illustrations from children's books that I'm using. I always start with a vague composition that I sketch and then start to collage into it, letting the material I encounter guide me as I go. It feels like putting together a puzzle that I don't always know what the finished product will look like until it's done.

As a non-binary person, have you faced any unique challenges or push back while trying to get your name out there?

There's a lot I could say to answer this question, mainly that as a queer person you kinda learn to curate your life to where you experience the least amount of bigotry and hate as possible. It's hard work and it's very tiring but that's just the reality for queer people. I stay away from places or people I know to be transphobic or homophobic. In a lot of ways it's a privilege to be able to do this and why I'm thankful that I have such a large and diverse group of trans and nonbinary friends here.