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The story of me.

1945 - 1963

I was born in Pennsylvania in 1945, the seventh child of Latvian parents. In 1950 my family moved to South Florida, where I grew up.

As a child I began making things with my hands. I constructed motorized model airplanes that I would fly each weekend at a local park. Building these small balsa wood and tissue-paper flying machines I gathered a vocabulary of sophisticated structures and simple mechanisms that I could later apply to the creation of kinetic sculpture.

1963 - 1967
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I entered the University of Florida in 1963. After trying-on several academic majors I wandered into a sculpture class taught by the wonderful Geoffrey Naylor.

At that time he was creating electrified works in wood and metal. Upon graduation I worked as his assistant, cutting wood and polishing aluminum. From him I learned what it might be like to live a life as a professional artist.

Geoffrey Naylor, c.1967.

Title Unknown

approx. 6 ft. x 10 ft,

mixed media with electric motor.

As an undergraduate in the 1960's, I created a series of large pieces in which colorful, striated panels glowed beneath slowly rotating, translucent resin  "windows". 

These  pieces found a welcome home in a darkly lit head-shop named "The Subterranean Circus," my first gallery. My odd ball sculptures joined period posters and drug paraphernalia to create a simulated psychedelic environment.

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Octagon -1966

8 ft. x 8 ft. x 2 ft.

mixed media with electric motor.

1967 - 1972
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Upon graduation I worked doing auto repair in Gainesville until, in  1967, I took I-95 North to New York City.

I found a Lower East Side apartment and began working at a sports car repair shop on Manhattan's Upper East Side. "Manhattan Mechanic" is a short memoir about my work life in New York in the early 1970's.

Shop Floor, Adams-Mahoney & Co.


429 E. 74th St., NYC

Kinetic sculpture's popularity peaked during the 1960's, culminating in the 1968 exhibition, The Machine As Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age, at New York's Museum of Modern Art. The metal covered catalog for the  exhibition contained a history of kinetic sculpture and an introduction to the work of contemporary kinetic artists. 

As the title implies, by the late 1960s mechanical devices were already becoming "dated." Hewlett Packard introduced the first personal computers during the year of the exhibition. Much of my artwork refers to this earlier, pre-digital, mechanical age.


Cover: The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age

Pontus Hulten, Editor

The Museum of Modern Art - 1968

Another influential book from this period was Arte Povera by Germano Celant. It introduced me to works by Walter de Maria, Michelangelo Pisteletto, Maria Mertz, Joseph Beuys, Bruce Nauman, and other artists whose style resonated with my own sensibilities.

Cover: Arte Povera 

Germano Celant.

Praeger Publications - 1969

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Spinning Drums - 1972

16 ft. x 5 ft. x 4 ft.

mixed media with electric motor

In 1970 I enrolled in an M.F.A. program at the Pennsylvania State University in State College. Here I created a series of large, open, linear kinetic pieces in a minimalist style that would become a characteristic of my later work.

I also worked with large format black and white photography and, in addition, created several small black and white photographic books. 


Umbrella - 1971

20 ft. x 14 ft. x 5 ft.

mixed media with electric motor

12 hour cycle

1972 -1984
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In my basement home and studio at 72 Thompson St., NYC. c.1972

(click to see ithe works llustrated )

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In 1972 I returned to New York City, and for the next 15+ years I found work as a gallery assistant in the many art galleries that began springing up in the SOHO neighborhood of Lower Manhattan.

For many years I worked regularly at the OK Harris Gallery, helping with each month's installations. Gallery work provided a fascinating window into complexities of the commercial art market.

My work began to be included in group shows throughout the City,


In 1973 Norman moved into an artist's loft at 137 Bowery. I later shared this space with my friend and fellow gallery worker, the painter Phil Smith. 


In 1974 Ivan Karp offered me a show at the OK Harris Gallery, which was my first solo exhibition in New York City.

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At OK Harris - 1974

16 ft. x 10 ft. x 5 ft.

mixed media with electric motor

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In 1979 I took over a small building at 147 Broadway in Brooklyn's then devastated neighborhood of South Williamsburg, occupying the ground floor while slowly rehabilitating the dilapidated upper 3 stories.

I became active in an informal "guerrilla" movement of artist/organized exhibitions that "popped-up" in marginal neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens and the Lower East Side of Manhattan. 

The Monumental Show - poster

1981 - artist unknown

approx. 11" x 17"  - offset litho

During the 1970's and early 1980's I held several temporary academic positions at the University of Minnesota, Hunter College, and Wake Forest University.


In 1982-83 I served as the interim gallery director of the Wake Forest University Art Gallery in Winston-Salem, NC.

1984 - on
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In 1984 a 20-minute VHS video of my work was seen by Joe Ansel, an assistant director of the Exploratorium, a "museum of science, art and human perception" in San Francisco. Joe passed the tape on to other science museums, and I was  offered a long residency at the New York Hall of Science. This led to other residencies, and soon my pieces began to be exhibited in, and purchased within the growing network of large science museums, worldwide.

In 1992 the bulk of my work was brought together at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, North Carolina for a major retrospective exhibition entitled Mindless Mechanisms.

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Mindless Mechanisms Exhibition

1991-1992, View of Gallery #1

Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art

Winston-Salem, NC

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The Art Machines Exhibition

with Confetti Fountain


 View of the installation at The Exploratorium.. 1994.

In 1993 Joe Ansel and I organized a traveling retrospective exhibition of my work which we entitled Art Machines. Art Machines included works from the very successful 1991-92  Mindless Mechanisms exhibition. 


Ansel marketed the exhibition to a network of science museums that were looking for a reliable installation of interactive physics related artworks that might attract a large and diverse audience.

 Art Machines was extremely successful.  By the time the exhibition ended its run at the Science Museum of Minnesota in September of 1999, it had traveled to eight venues for a total exhibition time of more than 30 months. My work had been experienced by tens of thousands of enthusiastic visitors. 

The interactive science museum network has given me the opportunity to have my work presented to a large, enthusiastic audience. 

I currently live in San Francisco with my wife, the sound artist Brenda Hutchinson.

Many of my kinetic sculptures are currently in storage in Northern California.

© N.T. 2023

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Norman and Brenda at the phaeno Museum, 2015

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