Universe of: Marcus Amerman

Date August 6, 2008 at 10:00 PM

Publication THE magazine

Categories Performing Arts


Marcus Amerman (Choctaw) is a multi-faceted artist. Beadwork, painting, conceptual installations, performance art, fashion design, film, and sculpture are all part of his repertoire. Amerman often repatriates misappropriated Indian imagery and identity-he will bead color into historical pictures of famous people, collage two-dimensional cartoons onto canvas, or re-stage old Edward Curtis photographs. "Sometimes when I mention that I am an artist to a stranger, they'll often ask "€˜What do you make?' I tell them "€˜I make excitement.'"€


To me, a stereotype is like a prison cell. It's a place society puts you in to keep you contained. Well, I'm not waiting for anyone to parole me, I've got a tunnel going, I've got files being smuggled to me in cakes, and I have friends who'll ram a truck through the prison wall.

Cliché Depictions of Indigenous People

People on this material plane just love and thrive on the notion of duality. Something is either good or it's bad, Indians are either "Noble Savages"€ or "wild and cruel."€ I really don't think people around the world and throughout time are very different. I think we're all capable of, and victims of, an identical human thinking process. It's cultures and leadership that seem to affect temporary directions of thinking.


I came to address the notion of the appropriation of Native American art, mythology, and religion during my brief attendance at the University of Illinois in the late eighties. Because they had an Indian as a mascot, they felt justified in saturating the environment with endless offensive caricatures of Indian culture. What struck me, however, was how feverishly they defended their racist stereotypes and insisted that they did it with the utmost respect. That experience really activated me and informed my art in a whole different way.

Wearing Many Hats

I analogize everything to the idea that art is war, so for me different mediums are different weapons. Beadwork is my gun, painting is my bow and arrow, fashion is my lance, and installation is my coup stick. Performance is my rocket launcher, but a major film project would be an atomic bomb. It's a weapon of mass seduction, and I'm out to destroy stereotypes. The bigger the scale, the better.


Little old Indian ladies who've been doing beadwork for their families for generations are probably my biggest fans. They're the ones that take my classes because they want to bead a portrait of their grandchildren. I belong to Native American beadwork. I'm not a rebel or a strange aberration-I'm part of the continuum.


I love to create. I live to create. I'm curious about life and I can use anything I can learn to express what I think. I live to learn and create fearlessly. I subscribe to the idea that anything an artist makes is a self-portrait. "I make excitement"€ because I am excitement. I'm a golden eagle striking, I'm a tower of pain, I'm a tornado touching down, I'm a runaway train.

Being Indian

Like Jack Crabb says in Little Big Man, "I wasn't just playin' Indian, I was livin' Indian."€ I was born and I live Indian. I cut my artistic teeth on beads and feathers, bones and shells, furs and hides. I can make a complete fancy-dance outfit and I can make it with fiber-optic horsehair on the bustles if I want to.

A Door or a Wall?

I believe there is another world beyond this one. We tend to imagine an impregnable wall separating these worlds, but I think of my role as an artist as being a clouded window in that wall. I seek to be the open door.