Barbadian Artist Norma Talma 1936 – 2011: An Appreciation from Janice Whittle & Dr John Webster

  • Janice Whittle, NCF Curator – “I became very fond of Norma when I was curator of her Lifetime Achievement Award retrospective exhibition. She was such a lovely person, who worked very hard for the development of Art in Barbados. She dared to work differently sharing an original perspective with us. Norma’s own work was an act of love where she even made her own materials. The work was essentially non-representational and moving in a more three-dimensional, relief direction, which we wondered where it would take her.

Norma Talma, two of her grandchildren, and Julianna Inniss, Curator, on the Opening Night of Norma's last show, "Phoenix" at the Aweipo Gallery, The Crane, 20th March 2010.

She had a large dream of Barbados having a National Gallery and she was a member of the National Art Gallery Committee for the duration of the existence of the Gallery. She had worked towards this dream her whole working life in Barbados. Through the Art Collection Foundation and later the Barbados Gallery of Art, she was instrumental in the acquisition of outstanding works of Art which would become part of the National Collection. She was a member of the Board of the National Cultural Foundation; along with Denyse Menard-Greenidge, she worked towards the establishment of the Queen’s Park Gallery, which was the initiative of the Director of the Foundation Elombe Mottley.”

The Talma Mill Gallery, which Norma opened at her home, displayed many outstanding works of art by the leading Artists in Barbados. Artists in the 1980’s were a community in a way that they are not today. Norma chaired the Visual Arts Committee of CARIFESTA 1981; the mural project, the Caribbean Masters’ exhibitions, various country exhibitions. Out of the CARIFESTA experience came many developments in the Visual Arts in Barbados.”

As an Art teacher, she was influential as a colleague and teacher. Norma was a hard worker who always spoke the truth as she saw it.Those positions were not always popular, but she retained her integrity in the committees\ organizations she served.Her last comment in the local press was a call for a National Gallery. I last saw her at the Opening of Goldie Spieler‘s retrospective in August. She was in good spirits. Wayne Simmons, the Corporate Communications Specialist of the NCF, took a photograph of Joyce Daniel, Stella, Lady St John and Goldie ; These three distinguished Barbadian Artists, along with Norma Talma, were the first Barbadians to participate in the prestigous Sao Paulo Bienal. Unfortunately Norma left before the photograph could be taken.”

Whether one was in agreement with Norma’s positions regarding her work in the Visual Arts, her presence, passion and compassion will be missed. Love and condolences to her family. Rest in Peace, Norma.”

Signature piece for "Phoenix", Norma's last show at Aweipo Gallery - a Linocut on Handmade Paper titled "Mother Earth". {N.B. - ALL IMAGES COURTESY, DR JOHN L. WEBSTER: MANY THX!}

  • Dr John Webster, Ornithologist/ Tree Surgeon/ UWI Lecturer/ B’dos Nat’l Trust Executive & Philosopher – “I never got to know {Norma Talma} truly personally but always, from my early teen years, knew of her and her unique and outstanding work based on her own handmade papers and developed great respect for her talent in this area.

She was the Owner and Manager of Talma Mill Art Gallery & Studio located at Enterprise, Christ Church. In 2004 she was honoured with her Lifetime Achievement Award Exhibition at the Grand Salle, Central Bank of Barbados.”

She had a great showing at what I believe was her last show, ‘Phoenix – An Exhibition of Paperworksheld at Aweipo Gallery, The Crane from March 20 – April 6th 2010. I was privileged to acquire her Signature piece of this show,Mother Earth,’ which I shall truly treasure. The exhibition was an exploration of paper as an art medium. The collection included several sculptural collages as well as linocuts printed on paper paintings. The themes were: the patterns of nature series, the Phoenix series and the Amerindian series which represent the creation and continuity of life.”

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4 Responses

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  1. We have lost a stalwart in the arts. You will be missed Norma

  2. Norma was a volunteer, all her life and a believer in Barbadian Art, She will be missed.

  3. We have lost a wonderful friend. Norma you are with Trevor now.

  4. While working on an bookmaking exhibit project today, I took a moment to look at a vacation memory book I created after my 1986 vacation in Barbados which included photo of Norma, my husband and me. I googled her name and to my surprise, I learned of her passing. She was a lovely person. I will always remember her kind spirit and openness to invited us into her home and show us her lovely studio/gallery space in the windmill on her property. I will cherish that memory.


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