TERRY TRAMBAUER NORRIS (b. 1960), "Iron Cauldron with Meat," 2015, oil on linen, 24 x 30 in., private collection

There is a lot of superb contemporary realism being made these days; this article by Allison Malafronte shines light on a gifted individual.

TERRY TRAMBAUER NORRIS (b. 1960) is a still life painter from South Carolina who creates highly finished works in the spirit of the Old Masters. Her artistic abilities were recognized from childhood and in 1985 she earned a B.F.A. from Atlanta College of Art after studying design, painting, printmaking, and photography.

As Norris began to gravitate toward fine art in a traditional realist style, she took a close look at several key painters from the past, then supplemented her education with a month’s study at the Art Students League of New York, as well as workshops with David A. Leffel and Gregg Kreutz and critiques and classes with Ralph Bagley.

Although known primarily for still lifes, Norris also paints landscapes and seascapes. Capturing mood, atmosphere, and light are essential to her practice, which requires not only patience but also planning, particularly for the still lifes. While admiring the variety of perfectly arranged objects — be they pots, jugs, fruit, jars, cauldrons, or cookies — we might assume these arrangements hap-pen relatively naturally. Yet as much as nature plays a role in these visions, Norris spends considerable time composing her subjects, carefully harmonizing shapes, patterns, light, and shadow until the elements sing.

Norris’s painting “Iron Cauldron with Meat” (above) reflects this compositional attentiveness while sustaining the dramatic light and shadow (chiaroscuro) championed by still life masters of the past. This 24 x 30-inch scene also represents a milestone for Norris, as it is the largest still life she has attempted to date. “There was something about the cauldron and the sense of history it represents that drew me to it,” the artist says.

“The painting went through some unexpected twists and turns during its creation,” she said. “The meat was actually not in the original set-up, but it was a subject I’ve been wanting to try for years, mainly inspired by J.-B.-S. Chardin and Raphaelle Peale.”

The 18th-century French painter Chardin is just one of the masters who have inspired Norris. Other influences include Rembrandt, Vermeer, Whistler, Robert Henri, and Charles W. Hawthorne, all known for their expertise with light and composition. The time Norris has devoted to studying these artists has clearly served her well: theirs are the foundational shoulders upon which she and so many painters continue to stand.

Norris is represented by Sloane Merrill Gallery (Boston).


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