This week’s post is by Kyle Tipps, a student in Native American Art and Material Culture in Spring 2013. Students in the class wrote about work by Native American artists from the OSU Museum of Art permanent collection.
Opossum Crossing is an oil pastel mixed media piece on canvas made in 1995 by Norman Akers, who is a member of the Osage tribe of Oklahoma. Mr. Akers’ hometown is Fairfax, Oklahoma, and he currently lives and works in Lawrence, Kansas.
Norman Akers was an art major and graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1982. Through his paintings and prints, Akers reinvents cartography comprised of states, roadway lines, tribal oral histories, and flora and fauna. He uses his own experiences along with his Osage culture to express himself and produces very vibrant and lively pieces of art. Looking at Opossum Crossing, one can get a sense of all these different characteristics.
Akers has had solo exhibitions at the Institute of the American Indian Arts Museum, the Lawrence Art Center, the Carl Gorman Museum, and the National Museum of the American Indian—just to name a few. Akers wants to engage people in examining important issues such as human rights, equality, and environmental topics. His artworks generate a type of thought and discussion that may provide a sort of “Renaissance” treatment for minorities dealing with the dominant culture.
This particular piece, Opossum Crossing, is a large scale piece (48 x 36 inches) with many Native symbols such as the eagle, stars, and clouds symbolizing life and rain and a higher power greater than mankind. Modern overtones such as the highway allow us to see the obstacles mankind has created for the animals, and Akers’ use of bright colors and boundaries stand out and catch the eye, reminding us that humans are not the only ones affected by man’s ever-present damaging effect on mother nature.