Resident Artist of Alaska
Norman Lowell in his studio in the 80's
Norman Lowell painted the scenery of Alaska from his arrival in 1958, until his advancing blindness compelled him to finish his work in 2017.
The artist and his wife, Libby, still reside on their homestead property, in the log home they built for their family in the 1980s.
Norman and Libby in front of their first Alaskan home, 1958
Norman at a public display of his art in Anchorage, 1971
The Lowells' finished log home, 1980s
Norman Lowell in his studio with the light array, 2013
Norman Lowell was born in 1927 in rural Iowa. He was raised on a farm, learning the value of a strong work ethic. But even as he grew into a strong man, capable of long, hard hours of physical labor, he grew increasingly interested in expressing himself through art.
He read countless books on the classical masters of western art, studying their techniques. Through his high school and early adult years, he taught himself the ability to paint, and began laying the groundwork for the distinctive styles that he would master.
Norman worked as a salesman before meeting his wife-to-be, Elisabeth “Libby” of Des Moines, Iowa.
In 1958, Norman and Libby packed their infant first child in a van, and embarked on a search for artistic opportunity that ended in Anchor Point, Alaska. They filed a claim under the Homestead Act, and were granted a 160-acre parcel of remote land south of town. No road or services connected to the property. They had to cross the Anchor River on a log and climb the bluff to reach their land. Over that summer, they built a small log cabin in which they began their Alaskan life.
In the mid-1960s, Norman and Libby moved their family to Anchorage so Norman could open a private art school in a city with a population large enough to make it successful. He continued to develop his own styles, creating mediums of his own to better achieve the texture and depth he desired in his work. He taught in Anchorage from 1965-1972.
Desiring the homestead life again, the Lowells moved back to Anchor Point, and Norman contructed a small art studio/gallery on his homestead land. The new Sterling Highway now connected to the property, and soon visitors from around the world were coming to the studio on the hill. Norman hung an old bell in front of the studio, so that visitors could summon him from his gardens and greenhouse if they wished to meet and visit with him.
At the start of the 90s, Norman had outgrown his studio. He was in the middle of rendering a number of very large works, and paintings were beginning to have to be stacked on top of one another against the walls. So he began the work of building a new gallery, which was completed and opened in phases. The Norman Lowell Gallery of Alaska was completed in 2000, with the unveiling of his largest work, the 7’x14’ northern lights depiction entitled “Spirit of the North”.
As annual visitors to the gallery swelled to nearly 10,000 per summer season in the 2000s, The Lowells devoted themselves to giving visitors the best experience of Alaskan life, sharing stories and building friendships with as many guests as possible.
In 2013, following a long battle with glaucoma, Norman Lowell was diagnosed as legally blind. This news only strengthened his resolve to continue, and he compensated for his fading vision by building an array of lights around his easel. In 2016, his vision had faded to the point where his array no longer allowed him to see. He asked for one more year, and hired assistants to install the brightest lighting possible, at the optimal spectrum, into the array.
His 2017 works are the final paintings of his career.
Norman and Libby Lowell in 2016 created a nonprofit charitable organization, the Norman Lowell Art Gallery Foundation, to own and manage their gallery and homestead properties for the maximum enjoyment and benefit of future generations. Norman is now blind, and has devoted his closing years to assisting the Foundation and sharing his story of faith and devotion to the will of the Creator.