Norwood Viviano


About the Artist

Norwood Viviano’s work is about change. Utilizing digital 3D computer modeling and printing technology in tandem with glass blowing and casting processes, he creates work depicting population shifts tied to the dynamic between industry and community. By showing how landscapes and populations move and are modified as a result of industry, his work creates a 3D lens to view that which is invisible or forgotten. His use of blown glass forms and vinyl cut drawings are micro-models of macro changes at the regional, national, and international levels.


Viviano’s work from his installation Cities: Departure & Deviation was shown at the 2014 Architecture Biennale in Venice. His work has been the subject of solo museum exhibitions at the Grand Rapids Art Museum, Chrysler Museum of Art and included in group exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery. Norwood received a BFA from Alfred University and an MFA in Sculpture from the Cranbrook Academy of Art. His pieces are held in the collections of the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY, DeYoung Museum, San Francisco, CA; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Decorative Arts, Prague, CZ; Shanghai Museum of Glass, Shanghai, China; and the Museum of Glass, Tacoma, WA, as well as in private collections. Norwood is currently an Associate Professor and Sculpture Program Coordinator at Grand Valley State University.



Central to how I engage with issues that fascinate me are my art materials and processes and how they manifest ideas. For the past decade, I have used both historic and new modes of mapping as well as materials of the industry – ceramics, glass, steel – to investigate the relationship between manufacturing and population changes in American cities. This focus on migration and industry results from my family’s migration from Sicily in the early 1900s and growing up in Detroit in the 1970s and 80s during a time of economic devastation caused by auto industry changes and significant white flight. I initially wanted to examine the power dynamic between industry and the early immigrant population in the city of Detroit. This then led me to research other periods of history where major population shifts took place and their relationship to rapid industrial growth and decline. I explore settlement patterns and the events that shaped them.

I find myself looking at the world as a surveyor – telling stories through objects. Stepping back and researching how pieces fit together gives me the opportunity to consider the impact of the component parts. Conversations with specialists in a range of disciplines — historians, urban planners, demographers, climate scientists, and statisticians — deepen my engagement with the subject matter and the complexity of my work. My artistic intention is to better understand our place in time by focusing on land use through pictorial imagery and on industrial growth and decline through population studies that also ask questions about the present and future of communities. My installations and objects encourage individuals to make connections and ask questions about the interconnectivity between their and other communities. As an artist, I present data-driven information in a three-dimensional format using traditional craft materials in ways that allow viewers to place themselves in the work. By representing thousands of individual people as points in space, viewers can locate when and where they or someone they knew lived in a particular city. My material choice of glass is meant to demonstrate the fragility of populations. I hope my work asks people to examine their own histories of migration, from personal and communal standpoints, just as it continues to help me navigate and explore my own.

What started with a deep personal interest in connecting economic shifts in Detroit to the transformation of its landscape has expanded to other regions of the world such as Shanghai, China, where I look for traces of historical landscape layered within what we see today. The evolution of physical environments parallels the movement of peoples and helps me further understand questions raised in my formative years growing up in the landscape of Detroit.


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