|The endomosaic window that Norman created for the SF Masonic Memorial Temple|
I saw a great documentary about Emile Norman (whom I'd never heard of before) a couple of weeks ago on PBS. It was inspiring to see him still making art at age 91; his creativity permeated everything he did. The film showed him in the wee hours of the morning happily jigsawing small pieces of wood for sculptures and mosaics in his gorgeous home in Big Sur that he had built with his partner, Brooks Clement.
Norman had a lot of things in his life that could have made him angry—his family rejected his artistry and his homosexuality, and he lived in a time in which he could have been persecuted just for being gay. Yet he found a way to be productive and prosperous, in his own version of paradise.
What I found most inspiring was his joyfulness, the ongoing, obvious pleasure his creativity gave him. As he said in the movie, "I love to experiment, see if this works, that works... It's fun!" Later he added, "I'm here, I have a gift, and it's my duty to use it. I'm so happy when I'm working. The most important thing in my life is when I'm sculpting and doing artwork. That's my reason for being here." And, as he predicted, "If I stop doing work, call 9-1-1 and tell them to come and get me."
There are so few people I know in real life (or who are depicted on TV) who are joyfully creative—except maybe young children. I don't know how we lose that playfulness or where those creative impulses go—shopping and acquiring, worry, doubt? People like Emile Norman help pull us out of the stale, static rooms of our lives.