This elaborately Beaded Vest (2013) was inspired by the catalogs for the Burpee Seed Company, an online purveyor of gardening supplies. Whereas much Native American beadwork features flat, abstract designs, Marcus Amerman (Choctaw, Born 1959) stitches each bead individually, alternating colors to create three-dimensional effects. The result is vivid imagery that leaps off the surface and defies our expectations of the medium.
Although the realism and commercial source of Amerman’s imagery are nontraditional, floral imagery has a long history within Native North American beadwork as an art form and a symbol of cultural resilience. Floral imagery emerged as a mainstay of beadwork during the fur trade, when beaded horse gear, bags, and clothing found a ready market among non-Native traders and settlers. As Native groups were disrupted and displaced by expansion, disease and war, floral imagery retained symbolic meaning known only to tribes, forming a visual language capable of surviving the destructive forces of empire.
Photographed in the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles, CA.