Photo-Beadalism: Marcus Amerman's Precise Beadwork Wins Fellowship

Photo-Beadalism: Marcus Amerman's Precise Beadwork Wins Fellowship

Alex Jacobs

On October 13, United States Artists announced the lineup of recipients of 2014 fellowships, and three of the 32 awards given out went to noted Natives in the arts: Beadworker Marcus Amerman, filmmaker Sydney Freeland, and poet Natalie Diaz. ICTMN correspondent Alex Jacobs contacted Amerman, Choctaw, long acknowledged as a master of "photo-beadalism" (note that two of the pictures in this gallery date from the Reagan administration), for his thoughts on the honor of being chosen as a USA Rasmuson Fellow. 

Did you know anything about the award and nomination beforehand?

 I found out I was nominated in the spring and was invited to go through the application process which includes resume, examples of work and a series of essays on things like "how has your work evolved" and "how would the grant impact your life". They informed me a few weeks before the public announcement in the New York Times.

What is the award for, any stipulations?

It is designated as an "unrestricted" award but we submit an interim report and a final report on how the award actually did impact our professional and artistic life.

What’s next?

We all meet in Chicago on March 22-24 at an Artists Assembly.

Do you have any plans or you still figuring it out?

No real plans other to enjoy a break from the continual and unrelenting stress of making a living as an artist in a world that can often inform you that you have no value. Of course, my first instinctual idea was…an NDN superhero costume and superhero car but concerns of more practical necessity have been occurring to me lately. But all joking aside, I hope to more effectively communicate my art and the ideas contained therein to a bigger world. I have a few international shows planned in Amsterdam, Germany and Scotland that I now will be able to attend.

RELATED: President Re-Elect Barack Obama, in Beads, by Marcus Amerman

You recently moved from Santa Fe to Idaho, can you tell us about that?

I moved my 80-some year-old parents to the farthest reaches of the Nez Perce Reservation from Oklahoma so they could be close to my brother's family and I ended up staying with them and being their caretaker and I figure it's a good place to wait for the economy to recover. It's somewhat isolating, but the proximity and beauty of the natural world here is so compelling that it invites a closeness that is channeled directly into what I think and create here.

Your work is very labor-intensive and hard on the eyes and body...your prices reflect that also. Some artists use you as a gauge, "if Marcus does well at a Market Show then the economy is good/better." Any thoughts on that?

I've never heard that. That would cast me as sort of the "canary in the coal mine" of Indian Art, which is an analogy I may have used before. But artists in general are the first to feel the effects of a bad economy and usually the last to recover. I think maybe I am a good gauge because the sheer time required to do what I do almost requires that I constantly teeter on the brink of financial collapse, like a snail crawling across the edge of a straight razor. I'm bound to be sensitive to the fluctuations of the market.

For more on Marcus Amerman, visit

Alex Jacobs
Santa Fe, NM

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