Raised in West Virginia, self-taught artist Carolyn Norris (b. 1948) moved as a young woman of twenty-one to Cleveland, Mississippi, a quintessential Delta railroad town on the famous blues Highway 61.
To create one of her first paintings, she tore the wooden back off a dresser to use as a canvas.
She painted with available house paint and completed the painting with face makeup.
Thus began the realization of a passionate need to paint.Eventually, Norris came to serve as the visual griot of Cleveland.
She has used a variety of media, painting on canvas, wood, paper, cardboard, glass, plates, tiles, sheets, floor covering, and mirrors.
She also uses her garage door as a giant mural chronicling community events.
In her extraordinary images, Norris shows daily black life in the modern Delta.Spirit of the Delta contains 115 color images pulled from Norris's twenty-five years as a painter.
Her existing artwork has been photographed by noted local photographer Kim Rushing and copies of the works that no longer exist have been found whenever possible.
The book features a biographical essay on Carolyn Norris by Dorothy Sample Shawhan and an essay on her artwork by critic Patti Carr Black, who places Norris within self-taught traditions.
In an interview with folklorist Tom Rankin, which took place in 1991, Norris explains the centrality of art in her life.