People smile when they look at a painting by Norma Finger. That’s just the way she wanted it. “A professor once told me,” Mrs. Finger recounted in an early interview, “It’s not art if someone smiles when they look at it. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with smiling when you look at a piece of art.”
Mrs. Finger, who passed away in 2010, lived the kind of life that allowed her to capture in oils and acrylics those small town moments of everyday tradition that warm hearts. A woman of family and community, she eschewed the fast-paced lifestyle available to an artist of her popularity in order to focus on her husband, four children, and a growing number of grandchildren. Born in Portsmouth, Ohio and trained at Ohio University and at the Cincinnati Art Academy, she lived in Florida, Oklahoma, and Colorado before settling in the little hamlet of Oxford, Kentucky, a locale rich with inspiration for the folk style that so suited Mrs. Finger.
“I’m not a prolific painter,” Norma Finger said modestly. “It takes me a good six weeks to do a painting. I like putting all sorts of little things into a painting that make it personal and there’s a lot of time involved thinking about what I’m going to do.” Yet Mrs. Finger’s legacy of art is abundant. Hockensmith Fine Art Editions proudly offers Norma Finger prints. Other fine institutions who have showcased Finger art throughout the years include the Headley-Whitney Museum in Lexington, Kentucky, the Behringer-Crawford Museum in Covington, Kentucky, and the Frank J. Miele Gallery on Madison Avenue in New York City. Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky chose a Finger painting eight times for its annual benefit Christmas card. One of her pieces also appeared on former Governor John Y Brown’s 1986 post-Derby party invitation. Norma Finger’s work has been featured in national publications, on a magazine cover, and has been the focus of many articles.
Norma might be most pleased that her paintings reside in people’s homes and have become the focal points of living rooms and kitchens. They are treasured possessions, joyful gifts, and have firmly achieved heirloom status for families across the country. Her memory remains alive and vivid in the loving details of her art that decorate nearly every wall of the Finger family’s Kentucky home. “They all have a small story,” says her husband, Donald Finger. One of Norma’s daughters, Donna, smiles broadly as she points out a little girl in a pink dress in the corner of one of the paintings to a new folk art admirer. She explains that her mother always painted her family into the picture.
Norma Finger’s art continues to make everyone smile. That’s just the way she wanted it.
An array of quality prints of Norma Finger’s art is available at Hockensmith Fine Art Editions in Georgetown, KY. Click any of the images in this article to see them.