Daily Art Moment: Marie Watt

A long rectangular work composed of numerous other horizontally oriented rectangles. Each rectangle contains a word embroidered in red thread on various shades of cream to pale tan cloth in assorted stitches and styles. Some of the largest words are Ancestor, Myth, Love, Voice, Fighter, Custodian, Gratitude. Smaller words include Seeker, Care, Watcher, Legacy, Healer, Advocate, Interpreter, Wild, and Catalyst. Interspersed among the words are rectangles made of striped blankets in red, green, yellow, and black.

In her practice, Marie Watt maintains these inquiries that guide her work: “There are two questions that are an ongoing part of my work. One is asking people to reflect on a special blanket or piece of cloth and consider sharing the story with another. I am also interested in the question, ‘What would the world look like if we considered ourselves companion species?’ These questions have long felt important to me, but in this moment they have a different weight or even a sense of urgency.”

“Watt is a citizen of the Seneca Nation. Using blankets as a subject and medium in much of her work, she makes the connection to her tribe and other Indigenous communities where blankets are symbolic gifts to be given during important life events. Imbued with personal and historical narrative, blankets take on a scale of intimacy and community that Watt uses in various forms from creating public projects like sewing circles to using blankets as sculptural elements. Companion Species: Ferocious Mother and Canis Familiaris was created with the effort of sewing circle groups which culminated in more than two hundred participants. Companion Species is a vibrant continuation of Watt’s interests in interspecies relations, and with Seneca and Iroquois teachings that animals are our first teachers and that we are all related. This work is closely tied to the She-wolf subject (prevalent in this entire body of work produced around this time) as symbolic of not only a mother-nature figure but a balance of relations to our ecosystem. The community created through the sewing circles to create a larger work is also a reflection of that ecosystem. Visually, the colors are joyful and effervescent. There is a sense of celebration and devotion, and of course, the individuality that is brought out from the different stitchings—from practiced sewers to beginners and children—is delightful to see.”

Grace Kook-Anderson, The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Northwest Art

Detail of front: Close-up view of the work showing the words Origin, Observer and Myth surrounded by partial words. A variety of embroidery stitches make up each word. The rectangular patches containing words overlap and are stitched in cream thread.
Detail of the back of the work showing words in reverse, knots, and loose threads. In contrast to the reversed lettering, at upper left the words Great, Great, Great are stacked one on top of the other increasing in size. A black and cream striped blanket fragment is at top left and a green, cream, and red blanket portion appears at right near the bottom of the detail.

Marie Watt (American and Seneca, born 1967). Companion Species: Ferocious Mother and Canis Familiaris, 2017. Reclaimed wool blankets, embroidery floss, and thread. Museum Purchase: Funds provided by The Ford Family Foundation and Dr. Loren Lipson, 2017.106.1 © @marie_watt_studio

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