Oral history interview with Norma Minkowitz, 2001 September 17 and 2001 November 16
Minkowitz, Norma M., 1937-
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America
Place of publication, production, or execution:
Transcript: 40 pages.
Originally recorded on 4 sound cassettes. Reformated in 2010 as 6 digital wav files. Duration is 2 hrs., 27 min.
An interview of Norma Minkowitz conducted 2001 September 17 and 2001 November 16, by Patricia Malarcher, for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, in Minkowitz's home in Westport, Connecticut.
Minkowitz speaks of her early childhood and what it was like growing up in a musical household, her father was a concert pianist, her grandfather a composer, and her uncle was a violinist; she details her relatives escape from Russia before the Russian revolution, how her parents met and what life in the Bronx was like; her relationships with different family members, specifically how close she was to her mother, throughout her life; her first crocheting experience, making doilies with her mother; she explains how she was drawn to drawing, and how this is evident in her work in fiber; her education in art, attendance at the Music and Art High School and then Cooper Union; her most rewarding experience at Cooper Union with her two-dimensional teacher Stefano Cusamano; her first paid job as a book illustrator for a children's dictionary; how she began to make designs to send to Woman's Day and Family Circle, after the birth of her second child in 1963; the difference between a fiber artist and a craftsperson, trying to distinguish herself as an artist and how she would like to be recognized on a fine arts level; how time consuming making "wearables" or clothing was; the galleries she exhibited at including Elements in New York; her best shows were at the American Craft Museum, she remembers a curator named Paul Smith who was very creative; the different museums where her work has been displayed including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut, the De Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco and just recently the Kwang Ju Museum in Korea; her teaching experiences at the various craft schools; her different experiments within her work and how her work has changed since she began in the 60s; she describes her different studio spaces and how most times she can work right on her lap; how her children became artists too; she explains the meaning of several works to her and how viewers could interpret them differently, she mentions specifically, "Get Thee Up" and "Goodbye Mother;" how much home means to her; the many different pieces she has collected by other artists, including John McQueen, Richard Devore, and Ruth Duckworth; her other activities including running in three New York Marathons; how she has bronzed two pieces and what that was like; her four grandchildren, Max, Lily, Sammy and Jack; how she wants to continue making art and be a successful grandmother at the same time. Minkowitz also recalls Andrea Miller-Keller, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Lenore Tawney, Sheila Hicks, Alex Katz, Kathleen Whitney, Pat Hickman and others.
Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Norma Minkowitz, 2001 September 17 and 2001 November 16. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Funding for this interview was provided by the Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America. Funding for the digital preservation of this interview was provided by a grant from the Save America's Treasures Program of the National Park Service.
Norma Minkowitz (1937-) is a fiber artist from Westport, Connecticut. Patricia Malarcher is also a fiber artist from Englewood, N.J.
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 750 9th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001