Norman Akers As an Osage artist, I explore issues of identity, culture, place, and the dynamics of personal and cultural transformation. Over the years I have used a visual vocabulary consisting of images and symbols drawn from my cultural heritage and contemporary culture. The underlying principles that inform my art include tribal histories, maps, art historical references, and nature. Through visual narrative, I explore how my point of view relates to a historical, political and cultural sense of place in contemporary society.
Sense of place, which is a primary concept explored in my work, can be interpreted in many ways. Place of origin describes the physical landscape where one lives or originates. Mythological place transcends physical place and describes the timeless spiritual or mythic origin where stories begin and civilizations emerge. History has left its mark on the land, creating a place where political and cultural boundaries define our identities. As a child, maps fascinated me because they were complex symbols for places I had yet to know. Maps, through symbolic representation, define boundaries and landmarks of the place we identify as home. Maps instantly broaden my point of view, from a strictly personal recognition of place to embrace cultural context and history. Maps also have been used deceptively to create false borders and they work to re-write history.
A few years ago, I began to explore other approaches to image making. The computer became a sketchbook where I developed digital images and collages. I began to use a variety of printing techniques including paper lithography and reduction printing. The use of gum arabic transfers from digital sketches and hand cut stencils allowed me to advance the layering process to achieve a new spatial and conceptual depth to the prints. The act of placing images on the printing paper echoes my desire to orient myself in the physical world. While painting allows images into my vocabulary at a contemplative pace, printmaking allows me to develop ideas quickly and to explore variations on new ideas.
Recently, the concepts of borders, boundaries, and the migration of peoples have been in my thoughts. Current issues in the news about immigration laws and talk in public media about strengthening national borders is leading my work into a new direction. Questions about who is the ‘other’ and terms such as indigenous, immigrant, and illegal alien have entered my vocabulary. The latest series of prints includes imagery of historical figures from United States currency, flying saucers, and maps of the Americas. While researching early prints of native peoples made by ‘new world artists’, I was provoked by conventional mainstream ideas of history and how we might question the relationships that exist between fact and fiction.
Marty Avrett I feel fortunate to have the passion, intellectual facility and technical skills to be able to make things. My work is “land-based”. The strange, enigmatic phenomenon found in nature that sparked a special curiosity in me as a child continue to be the things that interests me most with regards to the images I make.
I studied painting with Richard Deibenkorn in the shadow of abstract expressionism and have spent most of my career making abstract paintings related to the landscape.
In late spring, 2012 I purchased a full box French easel and proceeded to make small perceptual paintings. I found the activity challenging and I have learned a lot. If there is a truth in the representational work it has to do with time, light and color.