Tameka Jenean Norris Gives Robert E. “Ned” Behnke Lecture

Artist Tameka Jenean Norris will present her “notes on failure” for the Cornish College of the Art Robert E. “Ned” Behnke Annual Lecture on April 10 at the Frye Art Museum. In examining the vulnerabilities of being an artist and creating a life/practice after finishing college, Norris discusses how she takes negative circumstances and works these events into her practice. 

With herself as her subject, Tameka Norris uses painting, video, photography, music, performance, and installation to explore the internal drives and external influences that shape identity. She came to art through music, which deeply informs her practice. In addition to making her own music videos, full of tongue-in-cheek hip-hop posturing and songs about her identity as an artist and an African-American woman, she samples and mixes materials liberally in her other works. These range from paintings on patterned bed sheets of her New Orleans neighborhood destroyed by Hurricane Katrina to photographs of herself enacting black stereotypes to visceral performances centered upon the act of licking. In her work, as in life, Norris constantly re-invents herself, claiming: “Just as the city of New Orleans and places on the Gulf Coast struggle with progress and change, so do I as a person.”

Born in Guam, Norris lived on the Gulf Coast and spent summers in New Orleans, Louisiana, in her early years. Listed as one of "24 Artists to Watch in 2013" by Modern Painters Magazine, she returned home to New Orleans to find a city where the cultural landscape had become radicalized in the years following Hurricane Katrina, where rents had tripled and the economic gap between communities was causing profound and often unwelcome change.

The 2014 film, Meka Jean: How She Got Good, explores the changing nature of New Orleans, as seen through the experiences of Meka Jean, an alter ego created by Norris.

Robert E. “Ned” Behnke Annual Lecture
Tameka Jenean Norris: Notes On Failure
April 10, 2015
Reception at 6:00 p.m., lecture to begin at 7:00 p.m.
Frye Art Museum, 704 Terry Ave, Seattle, WA 98104


About the Speaker

Tameka Jenean Norris (b. Guam) received her undergraduate degree at the University of California, Los Angeles before graduating with an MFA from Yale University School of Art in 2012. Through her work in performance, video, photography, and installation, Norris always seeks to originate and control the distribution of her own images, delving into themes of authorship and subjecthood. She has participated in the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2009), the Fountainhead Residency (2012) and the Hermitage ArtistRetreat (2012). Her group exhibitions include Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art recently at the Walker Art Center and Gifted and Talented, Third Streaming Gallery, New York (2012). Norris debuted her feature length film/installation Meka Jean: How She Got Good at  Prospect 3 in New Orleans (2014). Publications include articles in Art News, ArtForum, Art in America, and The New York Times. She will have a solo exhibition at the Cinema Gallerie in Brussels, Belgium later in 2015. Prior to her work in fine arts, she created music as a vocalist/ rapper, songwriter, and certified audio engineer – all of which has contributed to her genre-defying exhibitions. Norris lives and works in New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Berlin, Germany.

About Ned Behnke and the Neddy Awards

Painter Ned Behnke’s passion for the arts, and appreciation for the myriad forms that art takes, help inform the award named in his honor. After his untimely death, Shari D. Behnke founded the Neddy Awards in 1996 as a tribute to both his legacy as a visual artist and his deep connection to the Seattle art community. Founded by the Behnke Foundation, the Neddy Awards have become one of the most important art awards in Seattle, granting annually two awards of $25,000 each to visual and open medium artists as well as grants of $1,500 for six finalists. The artists who have been recognized for the last 19 years have a unique vision and a strong passion for their art as well as for the transformative potential of art to enliven and enrich the world in which they live and practice.

In 2011, the Behnke Foundation transferred the award program to Cornish College of the Arts. Building on the history Ned Behnke had with the College and on the shared commitment of the Foundation and the College, this award continues to sustain local artists and their contribution to the Puget Sound region.

The recipients of the 2014 Neddy Awards are Susanna Bluhm (Painting) and Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes (Open Medium). Applications are currently being accepted for the 2015 Neddy Awards.

About Cornish College of the Arts

Founded in 1914, Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, WA, offers Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in Art, Dance, Design, Performance Production and Theater, a Bachelor of Music degree and an Artist Diploma in Early Music. Since its beginning, the College’s founder Nellie Cornish, and the many teaching artists who followed her, believed in education through exposure to all the arts. This approach continues to inform the College’s curriculum and community involvement today. The College is accredited by the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges, and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.