Top Emerging Artist of 2009 | Norman Akers

By Norman Koplas

With their swirling compositions of realistically rendered animals, Indian and Anglo symbols, geometric shapes, and map grids, the large-scale oil paintings of Norman Akers resemble nothing so much as dreams captured on canvas. “Let’s face it,” the artist laughs, “surrealism has had a connection to my work. I’m fascinated with both the conscious and unconscious worlds, and I try to straddle that line.”

OKESA, OIL, 66 X 60
OKESA, OIL, 66 X 60

Born and raised on the Osage reservation in northeastern Oklahoma, Akers showed an early talent for drawing, but his first exposure to art came exclusively through native painters and western works by the likes of Frederic Remington and Charles Russell. Undergraduate studies at the Kansas City Art Institute turned him into “a sponge, going to the library and trying to absorb as much as I could, from the masters to contemporary artists. I started realizing that if you have command of a number of different approaches to art, it frees you to express yourself in any way you choose,” he says.

Now a professor at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe and preparing to take up a new position at the University of Kansas, Akers, at the age of 50, relishes the prospect of living and working just a half-day’s drive away from where he grew up. “My paintings are rooted in a deep personal symbolism and are trying to make a connection back to where I’m from,” he explains. “So I’m curious to see how being closer to home will have an impact on my work.”

He is represented by Chiaroscuro Contemporary Art, Santa Fe, NM; Berlin Gallery at the Heard Museum Shop, Phoenix, AZ.

Upcoming Show
Three-person show, Berlin Gallery, February 27-March 31.