By Nancy Cawley Zugschwert
In the past nine years, 16 Northwestern College art graduates have been accepted to top-tier graduate programs including Yale, Cranbrook Academy of Art, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, CalArts and Rhode Island School of Design, among others. They have also received additional honors, fellowships and grants and several are continuing full-time careers in art-related fields. Below is an update on one of these artists.
“Genesis 1 is my favorite chapter in the Bible.In it, I can see God as a creator. In it, I see the seeds of all the artists, craftspeople and ‘creatives’ that ever lived.God’s image as a creator continues to come to fruition in us when we make things of truth and beauty.”
These words of Andrew Gunnar Norquist ’04 express the philosophy that guides him in his journey as an artist. After graduation, Norquist attended the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where he received his Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture in 2006 and several months later received an offer to work in the RISD Exhibitions office.
As a “curator of sorts” Norquist’s office oversees and runs three campus galleries, as well as RISD-affiliated off-campus exhibitions.RISD exhibits approximately 40 shows each year.
Norquist credits much of his success to Northwestern professor and mentor Joe Smith ’92, MFA. “He worked with me to get together a great package for grad school applications and was a really great teacher,” Norquist said. “He taught me to be really hard on myself, in a good way. He pushed. Some people say art majors don’t work. He made us work and think. I still remember critiques with Joe being very thought-provoking. I rarely walked away from one without my thinking about art and beauty having shifted in some fundamental way. He laid a foundation for the critical theory we had to wrestle with in graduate school.”
As a student at RISD, Norquist’s work developed as he started dealing with topics of gender, specifically masculinity, drawing on sources such as hunting and fishing, military, and body-building culture.
Since graduate school he has been working in materials such as cement, wood and stone. Norquist is grateful his work affords him the opportunity to stay engaged in his craft. “There is a struggle that happens after you get out of grad school, when the logistics of life tend to upset your studio practice,” he noted. “You need to find a job, find housing and pay the bills. Many people stop making art during that time. I’ve been fortunate enough to have space, time and resources to keep on producing work.”
Norquist also finds support for his artistic endeavors from his wife, Shannon. A Spanish teacher by day, Shannon is also a dancer in a local modern company. “We both are artists in our own right,” Norquist said. “I think that has been helpful in that we can talk together about each other’s work and encourage each other.”
To see images of Norquist’s work visit www.gunnarnorquist.com.