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Collision of Heavenly Structures / Norman Akers, born October 25, 1958, Native American; Osage, Pawnee (Artist)


Collision of Heavenly Structures explores the space between Osage concepts of cosmology and elements of Western religion. The abstract Neo-Expressionist painting combines symbolism and a metaphoric diagram of the Osage universe created by Ha pa shu tsi (Redcorn), and references Osage ethnographic records compiled by anthropologist James O. Dorsey.1 The painting is situated within the nuanced dichotomy of the two-worlds concept, where Indigenous and colonial realities collide.

Artist Norman Akers (Osage, Pawnee) spent more than a year on this painting, which began as a landscape that he eventually decided to paint over. Akers’s immersive works utilize a vocabulary of symbols and coding that has evolved throughout his career as he articulates his story on canvas. The figures emerge from four cubic layers of reality, a reference to the origin story of Tsizho Washdake (roughly translating to Gentle Sky People), a clan of the Osage Nation. The most prominent stacked and overlapping figures appear as a red oak tree, an elk, a human being, and the four worlds that collide between the earth and sky.

—Jordan Poorman Cocker, Henry Luce Foundation Curatorial Scholar for Indigenous Painting Collection Research, 2021

This text was developed from an interview with Norman Akers by Jordan Poorman Cocker, January 13, 2021

1 Manuscript 4800 James O. Dorsey papers, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution.

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Collision of Heavenly Structures
Norman Akers, born October 25, 1958, Native American; Osage, Pawnee (Artist)
Native American; Osage, Pawnee
circa 1990s
oil on canvas
Object Type: 
Credit Line: 
Gift of the Artist
Accession No: 
Previous Number(s): 
TL1995.31.27; 0127.2486; 33215
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