Photograph of Nora Atkinson by Libby Weiler.

Nora Atkinson

The Fleur and Charles Bresler Curator-in-Charge, Renwick Gallery

Nora Atkinson is the Fleur and Charles Bresler Curator-in-Charge for the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. She joined the museum’s staff in March 2014. Atkinson was part of the team responsible for the recent renovation of the Renwick Gallery, the museum’s branch for contemporary craft and decorative art. She acquires artworks for the museum’s permanent collection and organizes exhibitions at the Renwick Gallery. See full staff bio.

Exhibitions

  • Forces of Nature: Renwick Invitational 2020
    Forces of Nature: Renwick Invitational 2020 features artists Lauren Fensterstock, Timothy Horn, Debora Moore, and Rowland Ricketts. Representing craft media from fiber to mosaic to glass and metals, these artists approach the long history of art’s engagement with the natural world through unconventional and highly personal perspectives.
    May 11, 2021 August 15, 2021
  • No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man
    No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man presents large-scale artworks by individual artists and collectives from this annual desert gathering that highlight the ingenuity and creative spirit of this cultural movement.
    March 30, 2018 January 21, 2019
  • Rick Araluce: The Final Stop
    Araluce is an artist and scenic designer based in Seattle. His immersive, hyperreal environments, in the form of both room-sized installations and miniature works, reflect his fascination with forgotten and transitional spaces and with what lies hidden there. He incorporates light, sound, and meticulously constructed trompe-l’oeil elements into his installations to create subtle narratives and suggestions of spaces just out of reach, enhancing the feeling that viewers have entered a new, unnerving reality.
    October 20, 2017 January 28, 2018
  • Murder Is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death
    Frances Glessner Lee (1878-1962) crafted her extraordinary “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death”–exquisitely detailed miniature crime scenes–to train homicide investigators to “convict the guilty, clear the innocent, and find the truth in a nutshell.” 
    October 20, 2017 January 28, 2018
  • Visions and Revisions: Renwick Invitational 2016
    Visions and Revisions presents the work of Steven Young Lee, Kristen Morgin, Jennifer Trask, and Norwood Viviano, four artists who take innovative approaches to their selected mediums and who share a fascination with themes of transformation, ruin, and rebirth.
    September 8, 2016 January 16, 2017
  • Connections: Contemporary Craft at the Renwick Gallery
    Connections is the Renwick Gallery’s dynamic ongoing permanent collection presentation, featuring more than 80 objects celebrating craft as a discipline and an approach to living differently in the modern world. The installation includes iconic favorites alongside new acquisitions.
    November 13, 2015 March 6, 2022

Books

  • the cover of a book
    Forces of Nature: Renwick Invitational 2020
    Forces of Nature: Renwick Invitational 2020 features artists Lauren Fensterstock, Timothy Horn, Debora Moore, and Rowland Ricketts. Nature provides a way for these invited artists to ask what it means to be human in a world increasingly chaotic and divorced from our physical landscape. Representing craft media from fiber to mosaic to glass and metals, these artists approach the long history of art’s engagement with the natural world through unconventional and highly personal perspectives.
  • Book cover for Renwick Invitational 2016
    Renwick Invitational 2016: Visions and Revisions
    Visions and Revisions celebrates the work of four contemporary craft artists—Steven Young Lee, Kristen Morgin, Jennifer Trask, and Norwood Viviano. Artworks from each artist defy expectations as they meditate on decline and decay, resilience and rebirth. Lee’s porcelain vessels, derived from Asian ceramic traditions, slump and bend, fracture and fold in the kiln. Morgin’s unfired clay assemblages explore personal nostalgia and the American Dream. Trask weaves bone, resin, metal, feathers, and insect wings in haunting jewelry. Viviano uses cast glass and maps to investigate population shifts and the fragility of communities everywhere.
  • crafted_NEW_500.jpg
    Craft for a Modern World
    Craft for a Modern World presents 150 of the Renwick Gallery’s 2,000 artworks in a new light, celebrating the restoration and reopening of its historic landmark home. Encouraging readers to find their own connections—as they have come to expect in today’s hyperlinked world—curator Nora Atkinson describes some of her associations among these artifacts of makers, both contemporary and pioneer. Readers can engage the artworks through subtle linkages in the color plates, which introduce related works in black and white. According to Atkinson, the artworks in this catalogue, many of them newly photographed, “are a playground for the mind.”

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