Artist Annie Weaver Norton will be brought to life from the pages of Caroline Seebohm’s latest book and into one of her favorite settings at a book signing and lecture reception on Wednesday, April 9. Hosted at her namesake Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens in downtown West Palm Beach, the evening’s events will spotlight Seebohm’s Monumental Dreams: The Life and Sculpture of Ann Norton. “Sunset in the Gardens,” a private reception with the author for friends of the Gardens Conservancy is also scheduled on April 8.
"Who was the spirit behind the Gardens?” said Seebohm. “That was my question when I embarked on the book. But I had no idea what a dramatic tale I would find - that Ann Norton escaped from a Southern background, confronted artistic turmoil, gender prejudice and extreme poverty to pursue her goal, and was saved by a late, surprising love that remade her career and allowed her to fulfill her most ambitious dreams. In fact, it's a modern fairy story, one of a talented young woman's steely determination to make art and her ultimate fulfillment. How many times may we stumble upon such a happy ending?"
The historic Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens, Inc. is a nonprofit foundation established in 1977 by the prominent sculptor Ann Weaver Norton (1905-1982). Located at 2051 South Flagler Drive, the 1.7 acre sanctuary is comprised of rare palm and sculpture gardens, Ann Norton’s historic home and exhibition galleries, and Norton’s own Wyeth-designed artist studio. Dedicated to preserving the beauty of the Gardens, the new Gardens Conservancy has been established for ongoing education at the beloved Gardens through its community enrichment programs with school and community partnerships, horticultural programs and related cultural events. The private and public April book signing events mark the launch of the Conservancy’s community outreach efforts.
In Monumental Dreams, Seebohm tells the riveting story of how Ann Norton, a quiet and focused child of the South, left her native Alabama roots to become a sculptor in New York City. There the petite powerhouse studied with John Hovannes and Jose de Creeft and was studio assistant to Alexander Archipenko. Her work was well received, and by age 35, she had already participated in group shows at MOMA and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Despite her burgeoning career, Norton found New York a difficult place to live. In search of paying work, she moved to West Palm Beach, where she became a teacher at the Norton Gallery and School of Art, founded by retired Acme Steel president Ralph Hubbard Norton. The two built a relationship based on love as well as common aesthetic values, and after his death, she built her finest and most lasting work. Today, her monolithic sculptures—in the spirit of Stonehenge, Henry Moore and Buddhist temple art—can be admired just behind the magical garden gates, amidst the high rises along West Palm Beach’s waterfront.
“Our Gardens Conservancy efforts will be designed to reflect the ideals set forth by Ann Norton,” said Frances Fisher, founder and chairman of the Gardens Conservancy. “Conservancy projects will aim to open hearts and minds of all ages to the art and nature of these surroundings, cultivate creative community partnerships to enhance educational programs and cultural awareness, and implement exciting horticultural projects to maintain the garden as a vibrant feature of our community.
“A beautiful garden is a gift to experience,” she continued. “It enlivens our senses, feeds our soul, and makes our heart smile. The Ann Norton Sculpture Garden is unique and powerful in its offerings – a combination of significant local history within a nationally designated property, larger than life art, and a natural sanctuary populated by one of the greatest collections of rare palm species in Florida. We look forward to introducing Ann Norton and her beautiful Gardens to new and old friends through these inaugural events.”