River of Art

Beaded Bandolier Bag By Martha Berry

• Winner: Second Place, Beadwork and Quillwork, Cherokee Art Market, Tulsa, OK, October 2013.

Size: Approx. 38" H x 16" W x 1" D

Completed: Summer, 2013

Materials: Wool stroud cloth, European glass beads, linen, silk ribbon. To the extent possible, all materials are period authentic to c.1820.

In 2013, River of Art was created as my submission to the Cherokee National Living Treasure Selection Committee. Along with the paperwork submitted by my nominator, as well as letters of recommendation, this bag helped make their decision to grant me the designation of Cherokee National Living Treasure. I am, and always will be, deeply honored.

River of Art required over 300 hours to create. The bandolier bag is an homage to our ancestors who created Cherokee art.

The designs used are borrowed from the pottery found in the mounds throughout the Southeastern part of the United States. Those potters were the ancestors of the tribes of the Southeast, including the Cherokee.

The strap is beaded in designs I have used to represent water, the flow of a river. The fully beaded flap design is an exaggerated sun circle, representing the sun which gives us life and warmth and peace.

The bag represents the never ending river of art that is Cherokee culture. No art is new. All of us create work which is greatly influenced by those artists who came before us. In turn, we will influence all those Cherokee artists who will come after. Just as the rain adds to the river, our work adds to the great stream of Cherokee art. Our work is special because it is a part of that flow.

The river flows always, no beginning, no end. We are the rain that makes the river, the river is the vehicle that takes us on forever.

River of Art was acquired by the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum of Oklahoma City, OK, and is part of the "Spiro and the Art of the Mississipian World" exhibition that opened in Oklahoma City in February 2021, traveled to the Birmingham (Alabama) Museum of Art on Oct. 9, 2021, and then moved to the Dallas Museum of Art in Dallas, Texas, where the Spiro Exhibition will finish its run (March 13 through Aug. 7, 2022). A video created for the opening of the Spiro Exhibition in Oklahoma City can be viewed here.