Professor emeritus Norman Abbey has returned to Pasadena City College with a retrospective exhibition titled “The Multi-Faceted Norman Abbey” in the Boone Family Art Gallery on display until September 11th.
The exhibit displays includes a wide variety of art, including paintings, graphic design, and works of photography. Abbey has earned many awards for his work, dating back to 1969 at a show in the Downy Art Museum. He also received a Purchase Prize from the Long Beach Museum of Art.
Growing up in Pasadena, Abbey gained a passion for art and teaching as a teenager.
“As I got into junior high, there was a wonderful art teacher there and I fell in love with the medium,” Abbey said. “The art world was so wonderful, and the teachers there were extremely good. I wanted to teach art and be an artist. By the time I went to UCLA and graduated, that’s what I wanted to do.”
Before he taught in Pasadena, Abbey traveled to Germany and Paris where he worked as both a teacher and as an artist.
Upon becoming a teacher, Abbey started a business for graphic design and photography. He went onto working with the Dodgers, Playboy, Public Storage, the Los Angeles Zoo, and many other organizations.
“The beauty was that I could come to the classroom and I could teach graphic design or photography. I could take them to my design office, which I would only do once or twice a semester,” said Abbey.
In the 1960’s, he took an initiative in setting up experimental photography classes, securing a $300,000 grant to give PCC a digital graphics lab. He also introduced a new curriculum to the school for digital media classes.
Sally Feathers, an artist and a friend of Abbey, was at the gallery during its opening.
“There was a line out of the door and there were people embracing him,” said Feathers. “Men and women, old students of his, kissing him. He’s an extraordinary man. He lives through his heart.”
An artist enriched by a life of travel, Abbey has many stories attached to the work that he chose to be put on display. When he worked to produce a travel brochure, he had the opportunity to fly to Tahiti, Fiji, New Zealand, and New Guinea among other parts of the United States. In 1975, he went to Australia to photograph the Sydney Opera House, but faced an unexpected complication.
“When I flew out and got there, it was sunset, and I raced out to where the taxi driver said I should be,” recalled Abbey. “I ran through the zoo and crashed through underbrush to find out it was the wrong time of day, it should’ve been sunrise. So, the next day at four or five, I watched the sunrise… To me, they all have stories.”
Abbey continues to bring success to his business, while maintaining his career as an artist in photography and graphic design. He is the only former professor who has returned for a gallery showing.