Nora Hutchinson
Video // Performance // Installation //
Story by Jessica Rose
Alternate View
For internationally exhibited artist and teacher Nora Hutchinson (b.1951), everything around her informs something else. From personal politics to the marshy shores of Cootes Paradise, the world is transformative, shaping Hutchinson’s experimental video narrative, installation, music composition, and curation in memorable and unexpected ways.

“From the very beginning, it was music.”

Music and sound have informed Huchinson’s work in myriad ways, notably in her video performance opera, “In Safe Places,” which weaved “orchestral and choral music into the framework of experimental art” and 2011’s Rosetta’s Vespers, “an installation expressing an operatic moment,” featuring a tableau consisting of three projected images of nature, “intended as a gestalt of the ‘frail and poetic’ death scenes of women in opera.” Another example of opera’s influence was 1987’s “Opera Around The House,” a “comedic tape about everyday life which combines the formalities of the opera format with songs about kids, dogs, cats, laundry, groceries.”

Still from Nora Hutchinson’s “Opera Around the House”, 1987. Photo by Cees van Gemerden.

Fun with Dick and Jane

In a December 13, 1989 interview with the Dundas Star Journal, Hutchinson talked to reporter Christine Bowman about “Dick and Jane (Spot & Puff),” a 20-minute video installation that used the classic “Dick and Jane” children’s book series “to provide an ideal setting to examine societal stereotypes and introduce issues that go beyond the scope of Dick and Jane’s ideal world.”

“Dick and Jane lead perfect lives. They have a perfect garden and live in a perfect environment. In the video, Jane changes and both characters come to a resolution together about responsibility to the world,” said Hutchinson in the Dundas Star Journal article. “Dick and Jane (Spot & Puff)” used “the simple characters to show how men and women relate to each other, and to show one girls’ transformation from a passive cardboard cut-out character to someone who yearns for a deeper meaning to her life.”

Photo: Behind the scenes of Nora Hutchinson’s “Dick and Jane (Spot & Puff)”, 1989.

Nora Hutchinson giving a presentation on her work "Dick and Jane (Spot & Puff)", c.1989.
Behind the scenes of Nora Hutchinson's film "Salem" (1980). Pictured: Hutchinson in centre, Kate Craig on right.

Nora Hutchinson is quoted as saying that she creates a body of work that urges audiences to take a hard look at the world around them. This work, born of her own natural curiosity and ability to tell vivid, affecting stories, continues to challenge the ways in which audiences view their immediate environment.

“I leave a lot of room to think,” she says. “My videos are pretty readable. They’re not weird, but I do think they are thought provoking.”