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Louisville, KY


In June of 1999, Cynthia Norton relocated from Chicago to Brooklyn, New York, and now resides in Louisville, Kentucky as of July 2001.

Her undergraduate years were busy in Lexington, Kentucky working under Professor Shawn Brixey at the University of Kentucky Media Lab. Norton's work in Kentucky derived out of an inspiration to create kaleidoscopic videos presented as video "quilts".

Performances created during this time were documented into these videos and displayed as installation pieces. Norton furthered her education in Chicago, receiving a Masters of Time Arts Degree from The Art Institute of Chicago in 1995. At the Art Institute she worked in the Time Arts department, developing her rube-like persona Ninnie Naive. Utilizing the kinetic, Art and Technology Department equipment, she built a machine that cooked bread hairdos. Norton combined performance, sound, kinetics and installation elements to give the viewer a folk inspired connection to technological ideas. For her innovations in sound she was mentioned in a book by Greil Marcus entitled, "Invisible Republic: Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes".

Norton communicates homespun ideas and socio-political concepts, of form and content, into an accessible art form. Drawing from the history of famous and lesser known female voices and personalities, Norton creates her original vehicles of sound and expression in which to investigate cultural and technical aesthetics.

For the last 11 years, Norton's interests lie in American folk music history and inferring about gender technology, and as a parallel, she to is dealing with it, building and programming her kinetic pieces. She uses mixing bowls, lamp stands, a kitchen table, and dresses, among other household items. Norton builds her devices creating the sentiment that a woman, "Ninnie", made the props from her surroundings.

Through lyrics, folk music relayed messages of social history and the technological advances in people's lives. For example, two songs featured in the 1994 performance, "Bun In The Oven", and "Ninnie's" Compact Disc (Cotton Candy Country,'95) is: "The Pill" by Loretta Lynn and "Washwoman's" Blues by Bessie Smith. The performance installation explored folk mythology through: music, instruments, an autobiographical monologue, kinetics, a real-time video quilt, and bread baking. Norton explored the way women played a major role in the history of folk music. Women preserved the early roots of American Music by passing down the mores generation to generation. As a result folk music preserved the heritage that we use as insight for our culture. Norton's performance work encompasses an aspiration to merge aspects of technology, media, folk music, history and storytelling.

In the performance installation, "Bun In The Oven", Norton used bread dough as a medium for sculpting hairdos onto hair school mannequin heads. These heads were put on a sculpture, a kinetic carousel for rotating and baking, which pass under a heating element. Hollowed out shellacked bread was also used to build instruments entitled "Bread Badminton Blues Rackets". The hollowed-out bread was glued to de-stringed badminton rackets. Tuning keys were mounted on the handles of the rackets and strung with various instrument strings. Pick-up microphones were placed under the bridge and held into position with a clothespin. They were played by musicians in the performance as sound accompaniment to her monologue and singing. Technology for "Ninnie" can be as simple as a recipe or a song.

In 1998 Norton was invited to perform internationally as "Ninnie Naïve", at the Berlin International Performance Congress. With a new performance video, entitled "DisContent", "Ninnie" shows a more subversive side. She performed a live version of the tune "Single Girl", by Ruby Vass, a song that waivers between single independence and married motherhood. Her Loretta Lynn tribute took on a new level of intent with the use of temporary tattoos and a jaw harp solo.

Norton continued the ephemeral artwork for "Ninnie" by designing the temporary tattoo. The design signifies "Ninnie's Blues" as a Finnish artist described her. It is an image of Ninnie as a cross between Man Ray's Violin d'Ingres and the hat with a price tag of Minnie Pearl. This image represents the merging of two genres and the need to look at the culture in American historical personalities. Norton animated the tattoos in her video, "DisContent", and used them in installations and as performance props.

In a performance exchange with Toronto artists, entitled Eleven Eleven, Norton displayed "Pick'in On My Heart Strings", a two channel kinetic sound sculpture that holds an instrument made out of angle food cake and allows the viewer to hear a CD playing inside an old wooden record player. The instrument is plucked by a motor while the sound is amplified. The CD playing inside highlights two songs by Norton and others patterned after Skeeter Davis, drawing attention to a more vulnerable yet powerful sound adaptation. This performance installation entitled, "I'm a Voyeur", exposed a transition between "Ninnie" as a subject and "Ninnie" as a cultural worker.

In 2002, Cynthia has shown new work at Swanson Reed Contemporary; Louisville, Kentucky. As sculpture she has built a moonshine still, entitled "Emotion"; this functional object was activated through performance entitled "Double-Agent Workhorse". This work is an exploration of personal, political and cultural economy. The thought of moonshiners as cultural workers and artisans of our region are a parallel to that of the role of artist and performance art. The still, a kinetic sculpture, is a metaphor to describe emotional desire. It redefines the mechanical as a metaphysical system or "gradient relationship". "Gradient Relationship" is the title of a video loop in the exhibit in which "Ninnie" is singing the folk song "Single Girl" as the sound track.

In October 2003 Norton returned to Germany performing at the 9th Annual International Congress for Performance and Visual Art. Taking on the challenge of showing at this festival she has produced some new instruments that expresses irony through the use of assorted traveling cases and a dictionary. Currently, Cynthia has completed a new kinetic sculpture entitled "Dancing Squared". This sculpture is comprised of four square dancing dresses spinning in unison while the entire sculpture revolves.