Monday, April 28, 2008

Interview with Nora Blansett

I can hardly think of a way to open this interview. Words fail in my attempt to express the emotion, openness and depth Nora brings to this project and the profound impact it has on me. It is best I get right to the interview and let Nora (and her artwork) speak for herself.

"I've been working in the arts now," Nora tells me, "for about sixteen years." She's particularly focused on fantasy and Middle Eastern design. "I'm really not sure how the fantasy world overlapped into my art. I imagine it probably had to do with my mom reading me various bedtime stories from different countries and cultures while growing up in Saudi. I often dreamed of what it would be like to be Rapunzel, the White Cat or Sleeping Beauty...but my fantasies were often mingled heavily with my desert world."

Growing up in the Middle East made Nora pretty obsessive about color and design. "In most of the Islamic countries you won't find images representing people because Islam forbids it. The art is all extremely geometric and full of the most amazing colour! I discovered very quickly that I had a real knack for the local art style, but still found myself dreaming of the maiden in the castle tower."

"As years went on," Nora continues, "I started showing more and more signs of obsessive compulsive disorder and was eventually diagnosed with high functioning autism or asperger's. Again, the geometric shapes and the designs of the desert countries really called to me. My parents took me to Egypt which had an overwhelming impact on my life and art. Alongside the geometric obsession, I viewed original works from ancient Egyptians featuring profiles of the most amazing faces with the greatest expressions. What they accomplished in such simple forms sucked me right in. Of course, my own work ended up taking on a life of its own and hardly resembles the work that initially caught me up in it--yet, at the same time, you can still see the subtle hints of my beginning there."

Nora's favorite mediums are pen and ink, watercolors and watercolor pencils. "I love the control I have with the watercolour pencils as well as their versatility. With the pen and ink, the stippling shading takes hours of repetitive dots, but the end result to me is worth the effort. After I finish the piece in ink, I enjoy playing with colour. I have recently been working again a bit more in watercolours and if you keep an eye out, you may see one of my rarer pieces submitted for sale."

Nora's recently introduced a line of soft sculpture art faerie dolls, some of which may be found on her website, Borealis Art, and shop. "I've found that those who have seen them locally have had quite a bit of interest. I've really found a lot of inspiration for my dolls from such artists as Molly Harrison and Brian Froud. The dolls have recently been picked up by a shop located in Windsor, and I'm really excited about the possibilities."

Aside from her work in standard mediums and the art sculpture dolls, Nora also does some wood burning (pyrography). "It's a little more difficult to get a proper picture of, and I haven't yet offered any for sale -- however, there is a strong possibility that one of my mermaid pieces may find its way into the gallery. I work on standard wood boards, but I also decorate boxes and anything else that I can burn a design into."

Nora's work has been used to both adorn a wall, as well as the body canvas. "I've been designing tattoo flash now sixteen years or more, and in my early years, I worked as a tattoo artist." Nora hasn't worked in the tattoo business in years, but still sells flash to countless studios and will probably continue to do so as long as there is an interest in body decoration.

"I couldn't even begin to list the many things that inspire my work as a whole." Nora tells me, "I've been moved to create by everything from my daughter the faerie, my son the sweetest imp, to toadstool rings. We still leave sweets by our favourite trees for the faeries (they adore cake icing!), toss a shiny coin over the side of bridges to keep the trolls out of our hair (pennies are a favourite!), and I'm as superstitious as they come. I believe in magick, practise it frequently, and live life with as much joy as I can find. I still look for hidden castles in dark woods, and someday I'll be the village wise woman."

Nora knows about my advocacy for Rape Response Services and victims of sexual violence. I asked her why this issue was important to her.

"Sexual violence..." she offers, "is unfortunately something I am far too familiar with. Before moving to Canada, I was a victim of a brutal rape. My attacker (a former gardener for the apartment complex I lived in) plead down to sexual assault and received a light sentence of just a few years (of which he only served six months after sentencing because of time already served). After his release, he attempted to rape me again and managed to rape another woman. This time he was charged with rape and sexual assault and only received about ten years."

"I have lost a great deal of faith in the justice system's handling of these situations," Nora continues, "their refusal to recognize our pain and distress at testifying, our fear of future attacks, and our concern that everything we've ever done would come back to haunt us. I was told that as a fantasy artist doing "erotic nudes", I would get brutalized in court by the defendant's attorney. He did...I was made to look like a sicko for painting imaginary, nude women. What justice is there when we are made to look dirty because we paint naked women with wings?!"

With so many obstacles and challenges thrown her way, I asked Nora how she maintains such a dynamic and healthy view of life.

"I don't want to be misunderstood - but I find myself inspired by my own sense of humour, the challenge itself, and my family. Currently I am going through a very tough time medically and yet, I find myself managing to laugh about what is a very serious situation. Why laugh? Because if I didn't, I'd go insane."

"Sometimes even my art and creating isn't even enough to inspire me to move forward in a tough situation, but I find that if I make light of it, I can bring myself back to a place where I can create and fight my way through whatever battle lies ahead."

Nora's two favorite series of books are: The Ghatti's Tale by Gayle Greeno and the Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon. "Each trilogy is about women fighting battles of very different natures...both of them suffering tremendous loss and still rising above it all."

As to what shoes Nora wears? "I have to say that I love my sandals. Release the toes! Anything that I can slip on and off at a moment's notice. Right now I have these great, cheap plastic shoes, but clogs or slippers are just as wonderful. It's not so much the material as the ease of escape! I can walk down a sidewalk and kick them off when I see a patch of inviting grass. I know they say to stop and smell the roses...but I think sometimes it's kinda nice to stop and play footsie with Mother Earth."

I invited Nora to provide a picture of what shoes she wears.

"Unfortunately," she says, "thanks to illness I haven't taken pictures of any part of me for a while -- unless my fingers were captured by accident in the photographing of a piece of jewelry. However, if you can imagine slippers on a pair of size nine and a half tootsies, you've got me figured out." **Grins!**

You may find out more about Nora and her artwork on her website, deviant art site, and her shop.

Nora belongs to the following groups:

World Wide Women Artists
The Fairy Society
Enchanted Folk Network
The Fantasy Art Gathering

Nora has won the following awards for her artwork:

Froudian Artist Award, August 2006
Van Gogh Award for Artistic Excellence
Silver Kara Art Award
Bel Art Excellence Award


Jean Levert Hood said...

This is a wonderful post, Janyce.

dianeclancy said...

Oh Jancye and Nora,

What a wonderful post this is!! Thank you so much. I LOVE Nora's work ... fascinating to read about her life!

~ Diane Clancy

Mystic Silks said...

Beautiful interview, beautiful person!

Mystic Silks said...

Beautiful interview, beautiful person!