John Daniel Norwood was born in Durham, NC and moved to Norfolk, VA when he was 5. He attended The College of William & Mary (now Old Dominion University) for two years and then received the Out of State Fellowship from Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to study art in 1957. He used this fellowship to attend the Art Institute of Chicago for two years but felt he knew everything and decided to drop out of school.
He worked doing architectural renderings for two years. Then moved on to Richard Rush Studios and after two years was running a shop of 20 people; painters, sculptors, mold makers and model makers. After saving money in order to spend six months in Europe, he left in January 1962. He had a bad accident on February 7, 1962 and spent 7 months in a hospital in Montefiascone, Italy. The Italians were very good to him as he was recovering.
In November 1963, John remembers: “I was on a boat in the Aegean Sea with my traveling companion when the first mate came up to us Americans and told us that President Kennedy had been shot. I was very disturbed at the news. When we got back to Athens, the whole city was in mourning. We kept traveling for three more years; studying the art history, music, theatre in several different countries. That has been the best thing that I have done for my education.”
John returned to NY and got a job in NJ making architectural models. Then he moved to Manhattan and got a job with I.M. Pei’s model shop and soon after met his wife Ruby Malva at a Halloween party in 1970. She was wearing a sari and John describes her as “exotic erotic”. They were married in 1972 and had their first daughter, Daniella, in 1974, with their second daughter, Erica, following in 1976. He raised his kids and worked for I.M. Pei for 20 years.
After a few years he was a manager of 10 model makers at the shop. He worked on the models for the East Wing of the National Gallery in Washington at the beginning of his time at Pei and worked on the Louvre Triangle at the end of his time there.
“When I returned from Europe I started working metrically. 100 paintings of 1 meter times 1 meter. And an acrylic wall made from left over parts of models. The wall ended up 25cm x 2.5m x 10m made out of modular boxes. When I reached the age of 50 in 1987, he made a wall of 50 boxes that were painted red, yellow, black and white. This he made because of a children’s song going around at his daughters school, “red, yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.” This wall was later destroyed in a house fire on January 6, 2009. Six days later, John’s first grandchild, Ruby Jane, was born to Daniella and her husband Brian Bigda.
Even though the fire was devastating and they lost nearly everything, including a large amount of artwork, that didn’t stop him from continuing to create. After they moved back in, John has been working steadily on new pieces. He says that, “I have been very lucky in some ways to own two buildings which I have filled with the art that I have been making for 35 years. I keep making art out of junk, I am a compulsive recycler and do whatever interests me.”
He doesn’t talk about the fire much or all that he’s lost. He is busy creating.
Visit John Norwood at his studio in College Point, NY. He would love to show you around. To schedule a visit call or contact John.
- 2000 Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (JCAL), Jamaica, NY
- 1999 Queens Theatre in the Park (QTIP), Flushing, NY
- 2001 Queens International, Queens Museum of Art (QMA), Flushing, NY
- 1988 Annual Juried Exhibition, Queens Museum of Art (QMA), Flushing, NY
- 1986 Holocaust Queensborough Community College, Queens, NY
- 1985 Small Works Washington Square, New York City, NY
- 1983 Annual Juried Exhibition, Queens Museum of Art (QMA), Flushing, NY
- 1959 Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
- 1959 Union League Club of Chicago, Chicago, IL
- 1959 Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, SC