Marcus Amerman (Choctaw-Hopi), featured many times in Indian Country Today and other publications as one of the top bead workers in Native American art and design, has again hit the media cycle. A series of his beaded portraits are being used in a national media campaign to promote the American Indian College Fund, who will auction off the originals at their next Gala Fundraising event.
How did this project come about?
Amerman: Wieden + Kennedy, an international ad firm with an office in Portland, OR, contacted me about doing beaded ads for the AICF. They send me photos of current students who benefit from the AICF and I choose which ones I want to do based on their potential visual impact and bead-ability. They would run as full page ads in a number of national magazines such as, but not limited to, Sports illustrated, Harper’s Bazaar, Native Peoples, etc. They have just finished shooting photos of current students in New Mexico and Montana. I should receive them in two weeks and begin the third in a series of five 6.5″ x 8″ portraits which are enlarged to a full page bleed (8″ x 10″). This first image is Akisa Milk and he’s Oglala Lakota from Pine Ridge, South Dakota. The AICF will retain possession of all the pieces and auction them off at their gala fundraiser, I believe. I don’t know when it is.
Have you done any similar commissions like this before, as an ad or for a media campaign?
Amerman: I’ve never done something specifically for an ad or ad campaign before. I had to work with the ad firm to be conscious of where the text would be going. So, I’m working exclusively with Wieden + Kennedy, not AICF, but they must approve all the images for the ad campaign.
Lloyd New’s portrait was a commission from MIAC (the Museum of Indian Art & Culture in Santa Fe). I also did a portrait of Rick West for the Smithsonian years ago. I did a portrait of Samuel American Horse (from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show) as a commission for the cover of BEADWORK magazine for their millennium issue.
Can you let our audience know how long it does take to do a portrait piece, as opposed to say a format like a bracelet; we know artists work on more than one a time for various reasons, or do you commit to finishing a piece?
Amerman: The ad firm gives me 4 weeks to complete a 6.5” x 8” portrait and I use that format all that time. I only work on one piece at a time because of the time it takes to configure the trays full of separated beads specific to each project.
What has been going on with you since you won the USA Rasmuson Fellowship Award last year? That was a nice, big, open award, with few strings attached.
Amerman: I attended the Indigenous Brilliance shows in The Hague and Edinburgh, I created some recycled stagecraft for the Bioneers conference and I am still working with a Native group as a co-set designer for a theatrical production written by Leanne Howe and Monique Mojica. I went to visit Elija Vandenberg in the Netherlands when she found out she had stage four cancer for three weeks in January. Elija championed contemporary and socio-political Native Art and shared it with Europe through her Renegade Artists Presents and the series of Indigenous Brilliance exhibitions. Edgar Heap-of-Birds joined us in Scotland also.
At this time of year people will ask, are you getting ready for Indian Market?
Amerman: I’m making a lot of bracelets for Indian Market this year.
Thanks for sharing Marcus, good luck on the AICF media campaign and at Indian Market.