Adele Collins

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Adele Collins
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Martha Adele Victor

(1908-01-24)January 24, 1908
Blanchard, Oklahoma, U.S.
DiedMarch 7, 1996(1996-03-07) (aged 88)
Blanchard, Oklahoma, U.S.
CitizenshipUnited States of America
Alma materAmerican Indian boarding schools
Spouse(s)Patrick Collins
  • Emmett L. Victor (father)
  • Lee Desmond (mother)

Adele Collins, (January 24, 1908- March 7, 1996) was a 20th-century Native American painter.[1] She was born in Blanchard, Oklahoma and was a registered member of the Chickasaw Nation with Choctaw and Irish descent.[2] Collins moved fluidly between representational and abstraction in her paintings, depicting an array of events and themes combining her Chickasaw and Choctaw heritage with contemporary European modernist approaches. Rennard Strickland, a professor of law who was also a curator of Native American Art, placed Adele Collins in the first wave of post-World War II Native American painters, along with other notable artists who hail from Five Civilized Tribes: Joe Waano-Grano, Woody Cochran, and Howard Collins.[3]

Early life and education

Born Martha Adele Victor, Adele grew up in central Oklahoma. Her family moved between homes in Blanchard and Lindsay, Oklahoma, during the early years of Adele’s life.[4] Her father, Emmett L. Victor (1875-1932), was Chickasaw and Choctaw, and her mother, Lee Desmond (1880-1954), was Irish. Both of Desmond’s parents were Dawes Act|allotted land in McClain County, Oklahoma.[4] Her father used the family lands as a rancher and a farmer and gave Adele and her three siblings a prosperous childhood.[5] Born two years after the closing of the Dawes Commission Chickasaw Rolls, Adele did not receive an allotment for herself.[6]

Adele’s Native American name was Puccanubbi, meaning “baby.”[6] Although she was not formally taught the Choctaw and Chickasaw languages growing up, she began to learn them later in life through researching Chickasaw and Native American history.[5] Adele’s parents taught her their family’s history and encouraged her to take pride in their Native heritage.[7]

Once Adele became old enough for school, her family took up residence in Lindsay, Oklahoma, where Adele attended public school until 6th grade. Adele attended Mount Saint Mary’s Academy for 7th and 8th grade. Her family’s income declined, and Adele moved to St.Elizabeth’s Indian Boarding School in Purcell, Oklahoma from 9th through 12th grade. She graduated from St. Elizabeth’s in 1926.

The Great Depression hit Adele’s family hard, as they lost their family land and money. In 1932, her father died, leaving the family to cope with emotional and financial losses. Adele moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where she attended beauty college and received a degree to become a hairstylist.[8] She then moved to Texas and worked in a suburb outside of Dallas for a couple of years, attending classes in drama and ballet for a brief period.

While working in Dallas, Adelle met Patrick Collins (1901-1977). They married in 1934 in Yuma, Arizona.[8] Adele and Patrick were married for 43 years. The first year of their marriage was spent between New York City and Patrick’s hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Over the course of their marriage, they frequently traveled, spending winters in Cuba, Florida, Canada, and Mexico.[9] In 1947, they moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, for Patrick’s work and lived there until 1974. Adele and her husband spent much of their time visiting the nearby pueblos and sites of historical and cultural significance. They also attended art shows in the area and traveled out to Tulsa, Oklahoma to attend the Philbrook Annual.[9] Adele credits her husband with introducing her to fine art as they traveled during their marriage to see art shows, museums, and concerts in New York, Chicago, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and other places.[9] In 1974, the two moved to Oklahoma City as Patrick’s health declined until his passing in 1977.[9] In the mid-1990s, Adele’s health problems forced her to slow down in creating and exhibiting work. She died in Blanchard, Oklahoma on March 7, 1996.[1]


It wasn’t until the middle of Adele’s life that she found the ability to pursue painting when she and her husband moved to Las Vegas. She started taking classes at the Art League in Las Vegas, enrolling in classes at the League for over eight years. There she took private lessons with Emalita Newton Terry, a 20th-century abstract and expressionist painter.[10]

Through her mentorship with Emalita, Adele became interested in the emotional effects of abstraction in her work.[10] She moved away from absolute realism, embracing painting that experimented with different levels of abstraction. Adele started painting landscapes through shape and form, with some of her works, such as Pueblo (1962, National Museum of the American Indian) becoming almost wholly abstracted.

As Adele moved through her career, she embraced aspects of realism in her portraits and historical depictions of Native American tales and mythology.[11] Collins credits Jeanne Snodgrass King, a curator at the Philbrook, with inspiring her to embrace her Native American heritage within her paintings.[11] Her portraits predominantly feature figures from the Five Civilized Tribes along with other tribe members located in Western Oklahoma and the Southwest.[12] Collins utilized heightened color in her depictions of ceremonial themes, hoop dancers, and Chickasaw and Choctaw myths.[13] Adele Collins adapted modern European and American painting styles to her representations of modern-day American and Oklahoma Native Americans.[14]

Selected awards, honors, and exhibitions

1962 Second Place, Oil, Annual Show, Le Grande, Oregon
1963 First Place, Oil, Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonials, Gallup, New Mexico
1966 One Woman Show, Heard Museum, Phoenix, Arizona
1967 Exhibitor, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C.
1967 First Place, Oil, Five Civilized Tribes Museum, Muskogee
1968 First Place, Oil, Five Civilized Tribes Museum, Muskogee
1969 Third Place, Oil, Five Civilized Tribes Museum, Muskogee
1969 World Tour, Department of the Interior, Washington D.C.
1969 One Woman Show, Riviera Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada
1970 First Place, Oil, National Indian Show, Scottsdale, Arizona
1973 First Place, Oil, Five Civilized Tribes Museum, Muskogee
1976 Gilcrease Juried Exhibit, Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa
1979 All Indian Exhibition, Oklahoma Art Center, Oklahoma City
1980 First Place, Mixed Media, National League of American Pen Women, Oklahoma City
1983 First Place, Oil, Nation League of American Pen Women, Kirkpatrick Center, Oklahoma City
1992 Retrospective Show, McLean County Gallery, Bloomington, Illinois, showing one hundred fourty-four paintings
1993 Red Earth festival, Oklahoma City


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Pueblo Record". Smithsonian Collections. Retrieved May 1, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. Mary Jo Watson, "Oklahoma Indian Women and their Art" (PhD diss., University of Oklahoma, 1993), 301.
  3. Rennard Strickland, “Where Have All the Blue Deer Gone? Depth and Diversity in Postwar Indian Painting,” American Indian Art, Spring 1985, 36-45.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Watson, “Oklahoma Indian,” 304.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Watson, “Oklahoma Indian,” 305.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Watson, “Oklahoma Indian,” 305, footnote 132.
  7. Watson, “Oklahoma Indian,” 306.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Watson, “Oklahoma Indian,” 308.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Watson, “Oklahoma Indian,” 309.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Watson, “Oklahoma Indian,” 310.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Watson, “Oklahoma Indian,” 311.
  12. Watson, “Oklahoma Indian,” 313.
  13. Watson, “Oklahoma Indian,” 314 and 318.
  14. Watson, “Oklahoma Indian,” 301.

External links

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