Onward & Upward
Fauntleroy, Gussie, Southwest Art
Choctaw bead artist Roger Amerman remembers a moment when the links between ceremonial and symbolic elements in his culture came into clear focus. He was taking part in dances in his mother's home state of Oklahoma when suddenly the dancers' serpentine movements seemed very familiar. Then it struck him: "Hey, I'm dancing the same pattern as the symbols [of serpents or scrolls] in my artwork!" He also reflected on the way logs for ceremonial fires are oriented in an equilateral cross, echoing the ancient sun design and merging the concepts of sun and fire, both providing life-giving radiant energy. Looking back now, Amerman says, "It all made sense."
The artist's award-winning beadwork features fluid designs and rhythmic patterns based on these and other symbols inspired by nature and Southeastern tribal culture: stars, plants, and mythical animals among them. Now 50 and living in Yakima, WA, Amerman creates a range of beaded items, including bags, sashes, and ceremonial clothing. It was his own need for dance regalia, in fact, that set him on his current path. When he was 10 years old and living in the Northwest, close to his father's family, he began taking part in powwows-and teaching himself to bead. As a teen he refined his skills with the help of nearby Umatilla tribal elders, and he has long drawn inspiration from the rich beading culture of the Plateau tribes. "Beading turned into my passion," he says. Amerman's work may be seen at Santa Fe Indian Market, the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market, and other national and regional shows.
Every year since 1980, a handful of the most promising Native American artists in the country have been selected to receive fellowships from the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA), the organization that puts on the annual Santa Fe Indian Market. The fellows each receive a cash award to further their artistic goals, as well as exhibit space at Indian Market. Representing a range of artistic mediums and tribal affiliations, here are this year's winners.
BEVERLY (BEAR KING) MORAN
Beverly (Bear King) Moran was born into the Hunkpapa Lakota tribe, with its strong tradition of beadwork. She grew up spending summers with her grandmother on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, often taking part in powwow dances as a child. But all her beadworking Bear King relatives were deceased, and there was no one around who could teach her the craft. So when Moran's own daughter began dancing at powwows at age 2, Moran decided to teach herself to bead. She wanted to provide little Andrea with beautiful regalia in which to dance. After five years of research and self-instruction, she beaded her daughter's first dance clothing.
That was 10 years ago. Andrea still dances, wearing outfits made by her mother. And Moron has earned widespread recognition for her art. Now living in Albuquerque, she creates award-winning, fully beaded regalia, miniature dance outfits, purses, and moccasins, among other items. She frequently beads on buckskin, preferring traditionally brain-tanned hides when she can get them. A fully beaded girl's dance outfit can take as long as a year and a half to make.
Moran's designs draw on traditional Lakota symbols, patterns, and colors. Yet she also blends in a more contemporary feel by incorporating materials such as Austrian crystal beads, which were not available to her ancestors. And of all her sources for creative energy, Andrea is still the most inspiring, Moran asserts. "If s very special when I watch her dance." Moron's beadwork is represented by Prairie Edge Trading Company and Galleries, Rapid City, SD.
Hopi/Tewa potter Rainy Naha, 57, has had a lifelong relationship with the art form of her ancestors, whose ancient pottery shards still inspire designs for her pots. Naha is one of a handful of artists working in Hopi/Tewa whiteware, named for its white sandstone slip; most Hop! …