September 23, 2022

T.J. Dedeaux-Norris is not a filmmaker by trade, but for the past decade has been gathering footage for an evolving project.

When they participated in an informational session about the Iowa Artist Fellowship Program, one example was about an artist finishing a film and taking it to a festival.

That’s exactly what Dedeaux-Norris needed to do.

And that’s exactly what they’ll get to do.

Dedeaux-Norris is one of three Iowa City recipients of $10,000 grants from the Iowa Artist Fellowship Program. There are five recipients for this particular grant, with the others artist recipients based in Dubuque and Grinnell.

The program is designed to support creatives who show “commitment to advancing their artistic practices at a pivotal moment in their careers,” according to the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

The Press-Citizen interviewed the three Iowa City recipients to learn more about their work and what audiences can expect to see.

T.J. Dedeaux-Norris: Film arises out of Hurricane Katrina's devastation

T.J. Dedeaux-Norris is an associate professor at the University of Iowa in painting and drawing, and an interdisciplinary artist whose recent work includes a solo exhibition at the Figge Art Museum and a visual LP titled “Still (a) Life.”

Dedeaux-Norris was invited to Prospect New Orleans triennial 10 years ago. After graduate school at Yale, they wanted to make work about the Mississippi region post-Katrina, the 2005 hurricane that devastated parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama and remains one of the deadliest hurricanes to hit the country, according to the National Weather Service.

But their work evolved into both wanting to make a film about life after the hurricane and their life navigating three worlds: academia, art and their roots as “a girl from Mississippi.”

Dedeaux-Norris made a film less than a decade ago, one that was more installation art than something that could stand on its own, they said.

“Then after making that film, life changes and happens and I realized the film constantly needed updating,” they said. “I'm like, ‘Oh, OK, I'm a filmmaker — sort of — making an ongoing film that actually evolves and gets re-contextualized every couple of years based on events.’”

Events such as the death of her mother and grandmother, who were captured in earlier iterations of the film, or a global pandemic. With more than a decade's worth of new events, the footage and content has unsurprisingly evolved.

“(There’s) a lot of really tough topics about types of systematic oppression, like, 'What does it mean for my family to suffer Hurricane Katrina and then for me to be living in Cedar Rapids and go through the derecho,' and finding a connected line to these events and my history and my family's history,” Dedeaux-Norris said.

Viewers get a chance to see Dedeaux-Norris’ life and experiences over the course of years, but so does Dedeaux-Norris themself. For example, they reflected on the visible exhaustion captured on camera their younger self faced in the midst of career opportunities, but also the healing and physical strength they’ve shown since.

Their new goal is to go back through the film and transform it into a few short films and premiere it through a festival.

It’ll be an opportunity for Dedeaux-Norris to see the work they have dedicated so much time, resources and money into to reach a new audience and share a story she believes is more universal.

The film has been presented alongside her other artistic work in museum or gallery settings, but that setting meant that audiences could engage, and disengage, with it in a handful of minutes while observing their other work.

“I want somebody to know that they're going into watch a film ... with the expectation that they will stay from the beginning to the end. That's crazy for me, but I'm excited to allow that process to take place,” Dedeaux-Norris said.

Publication Source: 
Iowa City Press-Citizen