By Sophia De Francesca
The first time I was introduced to Jenn E Norton’s Augmented Reality (AR), artwork was at an exhibition hosted by the Gardiner Museum in 2015. Her piece titled, “Reception” was mesmerizing, and it captured my attention immediately. An animated video projection of an evergreen tree comprised of multi-layered arms and hands rather than branches and needles undulated with a subtle patterned motion, coxing me into a deep state of reflection.
Slowly oscillating between gestures of offering and receiving, inviting and pulling inward, the outstretched hands portray the reciprocal nature of give and take, yet also invoke feelings of anticipation, apprehension and vulnerability.
Drawing upon studies in forestry revealing the responsiveness of trees to stimulus in their environment, as well as the communicative nature of tree communities, Norton brings to life a secret world that cannot be perceived through ordinary means.
Earning her doctor of Philosophy and Visual Arts at York University in Toronto this past year, as well as having work commissioned by Art Toronto for the 2020 fair, (the first art fair in North America to commission an Augmented Reality artwork) it has been a landmark year for Jenn E Norton.
The commissioned piece recently featured at Art Toronto is part of a larger body of work she has been developing over several years titled, “The Perennial Series”. Drawing from recent studies on the communicative behaviors of plants and fungi through sound and enzymes, Norton creates anthropomorphic botanical characters that are constructed from elements of existing plant life.
“Themes of animism and the flow of information via phenomena that operate outside of human perception are whimsically enacted within the interactions of the animated characters.” From this exploration, “Eros’ Kiss” was conceived and executed at a critical point in time when much of the world’s population has become polarized, and is sequestered at home due to a pandemic.
Eros' Kiss by Jenn E Norton
“… I was inspired by the beauty and delicateness of the rose. As roses encompass both male and female organs in each flower, they are capable of self-pollinating, producing seeds that germinate into what many gardeners deem as underwhelming rose plants with smaller, less exuberant blossoms. To prevent this, gardeners will often remove the rose's anthers when the rose is a bud. It was important to shield this rose from the outside world. The rose of ‘Eros' Kiss’ is seen in an anthropomorphic embrace with its mirror self, shielded from the outside world to kiss deeply in unobstructed self-pollination.” - Jenn E Norton.
Jenn E Norton, Irises Listening, Augmented Reality App, 2019