I sculpt the figure to express yearning - a complex emotion that stems from contradictions. Rooted in conflict and misery, yearning is the engine that propels us to overcome insurmountable obstacles and change reality. Yearning is primal and timeless. Yet every period has a need to define it as its own.
Nowadays, yearning amplifies voices of lost touch and connectivity that were the bricks of human interaction in the past. Powerful accomplishments have brought fast changes in every facet of life. But they have also given birth to increased uncertainty, mobility, indifference and isolation.
I have selected the human body as the most direct and intimate metaphor to reflect on the desire to connect and reach.
The figure has been the most used subject in the history of art. But today’s creative freedom and changes in aesthetic criteria and social norms have provided me with the option to address the body with a personal vocabulary and turn it into a metaphor for a larger message.
To express the dialogue between power and vulnerability, I have chosen the female figure as a representative of both sexes. The relatively new quest of women for equality with men prompted me to desert the old image of delicate femininity and replace it with powerful over-life-size muscular nakedness that still sends out a message of loss and longing to be elsewhere. To increase their exposure, the women are bald and their bronze-skin is raw. These stand as painful scars of contemporary lives. But stripping of any detail, which could have anchored the figures in time and place, broadens their timelessness.
The editorial stripping expanded into replacing the entire figure with those body fragments that were essential to the message and led to the sculpting of hands.
My fascination with hands, that have since become the subject of my monumental public artwork, started with their rich unique imagery. When the hand is flat with joined fingers, it is a rectangle; when the fingers spread out, it becomes a tree, and when they curl into a fist, the hand is a ball.
The emotional landscape is even more exciting than the architecture. Separately, in their independence from each other, hands can present extremes of emotions. But together, they become a force of sameness and the ambassadors of touch. Not less important is the hands’ void of identity. It is a feature of strength that enables them, unlike portraits, to represent all mankind. As such, hands, in spite of their figurative nature, stand as universal symbols. They embody our awareness that we must touch the other in order to survive.
Touch is what we most yearn for. It is a wonderful testament to human resolve that experiencing life, even with the greater anxiety of today, has not diminished the long lasting power of yearning. Although this emotion contains absence and want, it holds the promise that in the conflict between reality and desire – desire wins.
Sassona Norton, 2018
The Early Years:
Sassona Norton (formerly Sakel), a native of Israel, pursued painting from a very early age. After graduating from the Tel-Aviv University in Literature and Theater, she went on to teach high-school senior students, produced and directed plays and published articles on various art disciplines in “Yedioth Ahronoth”, Israel's largest newspaper.
Her professional career as a painter was jump-started in her twenties by her sold-out first solo show at Gallery 220 in Tel-Aviv. The Jerusalem Post praised the show for its “unique personal vision”.
1974: Norton immigrates to the United States and joins the Art Students' League of New York under the Isabel Bishop Merit Scholarship.
1980: "A Yellow Night", Norton's large reclining nude, is published (under the name Sakel) in "Twentieth Century Masters of Erotic Art" by Bradley Smith (Crown Publishers, NY), which includes works by Picasso, Rodin, Calder and Dali.
1981: Norton is selected for the traveling show "Eight Young New Yorkers on the Horizon".
1983: "The Rain Prayer", a large painting of hands, is published in the 16 volume series "Discover Art" by Laura H. Chapman (Davis Publications).
1984: a second solo-show in New York, at Sutton gallery, is praised by the critic Peter Fingesten for its "strength, poetic, erotic, masculine, intellectual and sculptural nature".
1999: after 10-year involvement in architectural projects of design and installation, Norton shifts from painting to sculpting exclusively.
2002: Norton is awarded the Huntington merit medal for her sculpture “The Edge of Rest” at “The National Arts Club” New York.
2003: Norton wins an international competition to sculpt the 9/11 Memorial for the larger Philadelphia area. The 18 feet Memorial, the largest in the State to honor the victims and the First responders, consists of a pair of 8-feet tall hands lifting to the sky an I-beam from the North Tower of the world Trade Center. The memorial was installed in Norristown in September 2005.
2006: Norton has a major show of her sculptures at the Morris Museum, Morristown New Jersey. The show is extended by popular demand to over 6 months. The hard cover book “Sassona Norton Sculpture”, published by the museum in connection with the show, includes articles by Ann Landi and Hilarie Sheets of ARTnews and The New York Times.
“The work here”, writes The Star Ledger art critic, Dan Bishop, “has vigorously modeled surface and expressively exaggerated details…the sensual tension of bodies or limbs in convulsive movement is everywhere…the human figure is struggling to break free, possibly the oldest tradition in sculpture that we have”.
2007: The Morris Museum celebrates the opening of a new wing with a show that centered on Norton’s sculpture. The show titled “Sculpture by Sassona Norton and from The Permanent Collection” is on view through 2009.
Norton’s sculpture is published in the prestigious Henry Buhl art calendar. The sculpture “To Whom Do I Pray” was purchased by Henry Buhl in 2005 and is included in his collection of sculptures of hands exhibited one year later at the Norton Museum in Palm Beach, Florida.
2008: the video, “A Memorial Journey”, on the construction of Norton’s 9/11 Memorial, is shown at the international art fair in Stockholm, Sweden.
2008: Norton curates “Fresh Perspectives” at the Morris Museum.
July 2008: Norton is selected for the museum show exploring new applications of drawing.
The large sculpture “First Rain” is exhibited in the Sculptors’ Guild outdoor installation “In-Site” on Governors Island, New York.
2009: Norton is selected by the New Jersey Council on the Arts to lead a public conversation on art in the series of “Great Conversations”.
The 9/11 Memorial, "Memories of Sweetness" and "Unquenchable Thirst" are published in "Best of America - Sculpture Artists".
2010: "Touch", a 9 feet tall pair of hands is exhibited in “Encounters” on Governors Island.
2011: Norton’s “The Seed Cradle” is exhibited at "New Work", at Broadway Gallery, Soho, NYC.
2011: “To Whom Do I Pray” is the central work in “The Buhl Hand Collection”, at the Photography Center, in Palm Beach, Florida.
A solo show of Norton's work is held at the Tambaran Gallery in New York.
2011: Norton is selected from 8 other sculptors in Europe and the U.S. by the Swedish Advertising and Branding Bjorn Bertoft to sculpt a monument for anti-doping in sports to honor Professor Arne Ljungqvist, Member of the International Olympic Committee and Vice President of the World Anti-Doping Committee.
In November 2011, "Touch" is chosen by Aesthetica UK for its collection of the best international creative works for 2012
2012: Norton's sculpture "A Rising Issue" is exhibited in "OPENINGS", the Sculptors' Guild show at the Dumbo Gallery
2013: "Into the Wind" is exhibited in "Rising Tide", Sculptors' Guild show on Governors Island.
2014: Norton starts to work on Hurricane Sandy Monument for the waterfront in Jersey City.
2015: Norton shows her work in "A Sure Hand" at Morris Arts, NJ.
In April 2015, Norton gives a talk about her sculpture and the importance of monuments at the Park Avenue Club. The talk is sponsored by the Morris Arts and includes a slide show of the Hurricane Sandy Monument and a movie of the 9/11 Memorial that Norton installed in Pennsylvania.
2015: Plans for the anti-doping monument in Europe are reintroduced. Professor Arne Ljungqvist flies from Sweden to visit Norton’s studio to discuss options for the monument “Et Purus”. The plans are to have a monument in every major City in Europe. Talks and budgets are being finalized for a monument in Monaco and in Stockholm. Future monuments are sought for Lausanne and in Dubai. A website dedicated to the monument Et Purus is established by the Swedish Foundation www.etpurus.com
2016-2017: “To whom do I pray” is exhibited at the Henry Buhl’s ‘Hands”, the old Parish Museum in South Hampton, NY.
2017: Final design for the Et Purus Monument is selected. The Arts General Secretary of Monaco visits studio to discuss the installation site on the Palace grounds of H.S.H. Prince Albert II.
2018: Sassona Norton is elected to the Board of Trustees of the Morris Museum in Morristown NJ.
Sassona Norton is a member of The International Sculpture Center, the Sculptors' Guild (serving on the board for several years), The National Sculpture Society, The Washington Sculptors Group, and The Royal British Society of Sculptors (ARBS).
Norton is represented in by Tambaran Gallery in NY.
Henry Buhl, ACE Founder, New York
Ivan Greenstein, New Jersey
The Honorable Ambassador Swaenee Hunt, Massachusetts
Lee Longell, New Jersey
Peter Migliorato, Deloitte Consulting, Partner, Florida
Sally Minard, Four Freedoms Park, Vice Chair, New York
Harry O’Mealia, Stifel Trust Co., CEO & President, Maryland
Elizabeth Palay & Ed Feige, Wisconsin
Craig Ponzio, “Art Investments”, Colorado
Mike McKool, McKool Smith, Chairman, Texas
Morris Museum, New Jersey
Haya Horowitz, Israel
Dr. and Mrs. Moshe Shike, New York
Nathan and Karen Shike, London
NEWS AND MEDIA
“BroadwayArtWorld.com”: February 2, 2018, “Morris Museum Announces New Board Member, Sassona Norton”
Wikipedia:Sassona Norton - 2017
“Los Angeles Times”: November 9, 2017, “Former prison of Suffragists now turned into an art center in Virginia – Suffragist Museum in the works”
“Dagens Nyheter”: Sweden,June 17, 2016,“De hojer ett varnande finger mot dopningen” – “They raise a warning finger against doping”
“Fastighets|NYTT”:Sweden, June 15, 2016, “Fabege tar krafttag mot dopning” – “Fabege will take vigorous action against doping”
“From 9/11 Memorial to Hurricane Sandy Monument”, Park Avenue Club, Morristown. Introduction of Sassona Norton at her speech by Dick Eger, 2005.
“BroadwayArtWorld.com”: February 11, 2015, “A Sure Hand Exhibit”
“Aesthetica – Creative Works Annual 2012”: 2011. Published by Aesthetica Magazine UK
“Best of America – Sculpture Artists”: 2009. Edited by Adam P. Kennedy and Renee Kennedy. Kennedy Publishing
“LifeStyle”: February 2008, “Building an Artistic Future” by Alina Makhmovetsky.
“LifeStyle”:February 2008, 9/11 Memorial on Front Cover, “Public Art: Top Designers & Architects”.
“Art and Antique” Weekly: January 4, 2008, “Morris Museum Presents Sculpture In New Space”.
“The Putnam County Courier”: March 15, 2007, “Martin Luther King Jr. Stature and 9/11Memorial Crafted in Putman County” by Eric Gross.
“Somerset Magazine”: Fall 2006, “Bronze Ambition” by Holly Lehr-Hahn.
“NJN Television”: Sept. 2006, “Art as a Healing Force” feature Sassona Norton 9/11 Memorial. YouTube: “Art about 9/11 – NJN/State of the Arts”.
“The Star Ledger”: June 11, 2006, “9/11 memorial and Morris exhibit in good hands” by Dan Bischoff.
“Sassona Norton”: A hard-cover book published by the Morris Museum. 2006.
“Philadelphia Inquirer”: September 9, 2005, “9/11, The human touch – Monument honors 9/11 Sacrifice” by Jeff Shields.
“Philadelphia Inquirer”: July 5, 2005, “9/11 Memorial Takes Shape” by Jeff Shields.
“Times Herald”: December 7, 2004, “Artist Talks About Power of Sept. 11 Memorial” by Carl Hessler, Jr.
“The Bernardsville News”: July 8, 2004, “Sculptor to create a piece of history” by Sandy Stuart
“T.V.: Channel ABC”: Action News April 2004.
“Associated Press”: April 24, 2004 News.
“The Mercury”:April 24, 2004, “Montco Picks Sculptor for Sept. 11 Memorial” by M. Gibbons.
“Intelligencer”: April 24, 2004, “Hands of Hope to Rise at Court House” by Melissa Milewski.
“NPR Radio”: April 23, 2004, Interview in connection with winning the international competition to design and build the 9/11 Memorial in Norristown, Pennsylvania.
“Philadelphia Inquirer”: April 23, 2004, N.Y. “Beam in 9/11 memorial” by Jeff Shields.
“Time Herald”: April 22, 2004, “Sculptor to create Sept. 11 Memorial” by Margaret Gibbons.
“Philadelphia Inquirer”: January 30, 2004, “Finalists named for 9/11 Memorial” by Jeff Shields.
“Discover Art”by Laura H. Chapman, Davis Publications, Volume V, Chapter 20: “Hands”. 1992.
“Artspeak”:January 1984 - Review of Sutton Gallery show by Peter Fingesten.
“Twentieth Century Masters of Erotic Art”by Bradley Smith, Crown Publishers Pg. 168. 1980.