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Norajean Ferris


Ferris, Norajean.

Norajean is an artist who works in pen, pastel, marker, ink, charcoal and oil paint. She has been a member of the RWS community since 2018. She graduated in 2015 from Green Mountain College in Vermont with a BFA in Fine Art. Norajean’s work varies in subject matter: abstraction, cityscape, landscape, portraiture and social and political activism. She is currently at work on abstract drawings and drawings depicting political unrest, specifically tensions that focus on the Afghanistan crisis in relation to America. In her abstract work, Norajean notices that she gravitates toward similar, elusive shapes and uses recurring colors and structural forms. She doesn’t go into these drawings with an intention or set form, instead she allows the colors and patterns to flow together so that the viewer can come away with their own interpretation. Norajean states that the structure, use of color, and level of emotion behind each of these works stems from her intense fascination with Mexican, African, Haitian and Indigenous art. She does not try to copy these cultural influences in her work, but rather tries to harness elements of depth and color that are “so present within the artistic works of these cultures.” For years Norajean avoided depicting political references in her work for the fear of backlash and misinterpretation. She did not want people to make assumptions about who she was or the art she created, or ask questions that she couldn’t answer at the time. It was the upheaval of the former presidency that changed her mind and gave her the courage to express the importance of morality through her art, and depicting social injustices became a source of healing. “Art helped pull me through the darkness of those four years and now I can’t stop making pieces that scream for social justice and revolutionary spirit.” Her intention with these works is to convey a story. She works on facial expressions and raw emotions on backdrops of corrupt and broken societies to show unrest and the need for change. Over the past year and a half, Norajean has begun to create pieces that use visual elements of graphic novels, complete with action and speech bubbles that hold many different languages coupled with English translations. When asked why she is drawn to the graphic novel style, Norajean explains that she began to use the graphic novel/comic strip form to portray the element of story. “The speech bubbles give the people within my drawings a sense of individuality, character and motivation that makes viewers wonder what happens to these individuals,” and the thought process that takes place while she’s painting has allowed her to understand the elements of visual storytelling. They are discoveries that have given her freedom and joy as an artist. These paintings are inspired by individuals she knows personally and professionally within the African and Middle Eastern immigrant communities of Portland. It is their stories that are fundamental to the creation of this artwork. She uses different languages to show all elements of human emotion without the telling signs of facial expression. “I have worked with many individuals who do not speak English and I want to show viewers my experience of hearing a foreign language that I cannot understand but I know is filled with emotion. I want to show the beauty and diversity of human beings by displaying different languages, to show that in order to make systemic change within political structures, we must be able to see that all people deserve equal rights in every branch of global society.”

Bring Forth the Light. 5.5" x 8.5" (2020.) Pen, pastel, marker and ink.

Art has always been Norajean’s way of communicating with the world. “I distinctly remember being three or four years old, armed with a pencil in my chubby hand making drawings on a blank sheet of paper….I made up my mind a long time ago to just be my own person, a person that creates without the fear of rejection and without any form of crippling self-awareness. I create to show my appreciation and love for life and because of my drive to make ever lasting positive change for this world.” Norajean is currently seeking opportunities to show her art nationally and internationally

and is looking into exhibitions and residencies. Her intention is to get herself out there and to be a voice for others.

To connect with Norajean, email her at nj@norajeanferris.com or visit her website, norajeanferris.com.

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