Norman Hasselriis retrospective “The Bower Bir-d” (April 28-June 9)

Greene County Council on the Arts (GCCA) is thrilled to present “The Bower Bir-d,” a long-anticipated retrospective of the late great assemblage artist Norman Hasselriis (1918-2006) in its second floor gallery concurrently with the group show Resident Alien.

The Bower Bir-d will include dozens of Norman’s whimsical exuberant “outsider” works, as well as his prints, photographs, and a 30-minute documentary about his process. Norman was something of a cult figure to those aware of the existence of his small, out-of-the way, hugely personal environment in Oak Hill, New York, where he lived and worked for twenty-three years: a place that remains exactly as he left it, with every corner filled with his whimsical Dada. The exhibition is a rare opportunity to view and purchase these collector’s items before Norman’s studio is turned into a museum. Members of Norman’s family will be in attendance at The Bower Bir-d’s opening reception, which will be held on Saturday, April 28 from 6:00 to 8:00 pm at GCCA’s gallery, 398 Main Street, Catskill, NY. The event will be free and open to the public.

Norman is perhaps best known for his entertaining assemblages (he called them “playThings”), however he thought his best work was definitely his writings and his photographs. As best described by Carolyn Bennett for The Windham Journal (December 5, 1991): “He’s a poet and a sculptor (more poet than anything else, he insists, but his definition of poetry is so broad that it’s likely to encompass the world); he’s a shaper and a “Trickster” – a literary Coyote in the finest word-forging fashion. He’s a child of Dada and a Dada to his students. He’s an Oak Hill resident, a Greene County artist, a gallery owner and former antiquarian book dealer, a photographer and businessman. A gardener. A self-defined adventurer. (“I’m a Norman, after all.”) A seeker. A maker of things. But such fun things, you can’t imagine.”

The title of the The Bower Bir-d exhibition comes from Norman’s work The Bower Bir-d and His Collection, an Assemblage that included over 100 small objects when finished. Norman described the original Bower Bir-d as “a playful work that seemed an automatic, unconsciously dictated creation,” which he later “mated with a related new creature, perfecting the curious, impulsive composition.”

Norman famously said, “I gave myself the gift of freedom to play… and I accepted that gift.”

Norman grew up in Forest Hill, New York. He comes from a creative Danish family. His Aunt Else Hasselriis (1878-1952) was a silhouette artist who illustrated numerous books. She also was an artist for the Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Company. Norman’s father Malthe Hasselriis (1888-1970) illustrated books and magazines in the United States during the 30’s and 40’s. He also painted miniature portraits on ivory and was commissioned by many famous people, including Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, Pearl Buck, and J.F. Kennedy.

The Greene County Council on the Arts Gallery is located at 398 Main Street in Catskill, NY. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. GCCA is closed on Sundays. For more information on upcoming exhibits, events, artist and grant opportunities, visit www.greenearts.org or call 518-943-3400.

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