New Yorker turns garbage into art, and turns his home into a museum

New York artist uses garbage as his medium

They say one man's trash is another man's treasure, but for one resident of Queens, New York, trash isn't just an inspiration. It's also his artistic medium.

John Norwood has created dozens of works of art from raw materials that would otherwise go straight to the landfill. He wanted his art to be out in the world, so he turned his house into a 16,000-foot museum, the Norwood Museum.

John and his wife, Ruby, live on a quiet road in College Point, Queens, overlooking the landing path to LaGuardia airport. Norwood has been making things all his life. For 25 years, he worked for renowned architect I.M. Pei making architecture models.

He worked on the east wing of the National Gallery in Washington, the Javits Center in New York, the Kennedy Library in Boston and the Louvre's iconic pyramid.

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Some of the artwork inside John Norwood's home.   Nia Stevens


In retirement, he returned to art. In the 1960s he made self-portraits but now, at 81, he works mostly with garbage like cigarette boxes, bottles and old shoes.

At 81, his wife Ruby is still a practicing pediatrician.

"She was throwing out a perfectly good shopping bag the other day," John lamented, to which Ruby replied, "Can you believe this?"

"Sometimes I think I'm a genius. Sometimes I think I'm an idiot," John said.

But John says he'll continue creating until he drops, which means the museum may soon need a new wing. 

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Some of the artwork inside John Norwood's home. Nia Stevens