1928 - 2017
Norman Scott Gardner, artist and industrial designer, died in Boca Raton, Florida from Alzheimers on October 28th, 2017. Born in 1928, his lifelong passion for art emerged when he won an art award at five years old. Gardner was ten when his father left home. From age eleven on, he used his deft artistic skills to supplement his mother's earnings as a milliner in a Manhattan sweat shop.
Following graduation from City College with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, Gardner was drafted into the Army where he designed ground-to-air missiles and painted murals for officer lounges. Upon discharge, Gardner entered Pratt Institute where, while completing his Masters in Fine Arts, he was given a faculty position to teach mechanical drawing. He taught at Pratt for twelve years.
In 1953, Gardner married Frema (Ricki) Lichtblau. In 1959, the couple settled in New Rochelle, New York where Gardner set up shop as Norman Gardner Associates. His design and mechanical engineering talents were quickly embraced by Revlon, Avon, Clairol, Estée Lauder and Proctor & Gamble for the creation and modeling of exquisite decanters. Later, he developed the first computerized program enabling volumetric calculations of irregularly-shaped decanters, which he licensed internationally.
In the mid-60s, Gardner moved his business into Manhattan, hiring and training many talented designers. He and his team designed Revlon's award-winning Pub Cologne bottle, a beer cask-shaped decanter, and the first Norel cologne bottle, whose elegance launched the brand. Despite the demands of a thriving business, Gardner's artistic production flourished. With a well-equipped workshop, he ventured into sculpting with bronze, aluminum, silver, gold and later stainless steel, producing dozens of unique works which he sold through galleries around the country. He continued painting murals and posters, making wood cabinetry and unique designs of all kinds, as he expanded his artistic repertoire with forays into mosaics, jewelry-making, bookbinding, knitting, writing, print-making and more.
By the late '70s, Norman and Ricki had separated. In 1985, Norman married Katy Buchalter and they remained happily married until his death. Unfortunately, AIDS obliterated the design community in Manhattan, and Gardner lost so many friends and staff, he closed his business. Without his routine, Gardner struggled through a period of professional and artistic searching. Then, on a chance viewing of his pregnant daughter's pre-natal sonogram Gardner became awed by women's creative powers, entering his self-named "Pre-Natal Art" phase. He devoted himself to adding fetuses to sculptures and exposing artists' taboos against depictions of women's creative primacy. He died heartbroken that the art community failed to wake to his call for a proud pre-natal aesthetic.
Norman Gardner is survived by his wife Katy Gardner of Boca Raton, his brother Harvey Gardner of Oro Valley, Arizona, his sister Corinne Hagood of Beaufort, South Carolina, his daughters Laura Gardner of Menlo Park and Valerie Gardner of Atherton, California; Wendy Gardner of Manhattan and Miriam Gardner of Bedford Hills, New York, plus step-children, Ari Buchalter of Manhattan and Naomi Hemp of San Francisco, and fourteen grandchildren.
Published in New York Times from Nov. 28 to Nov. 29, 2017.