A public garden & cultural center

Marie Watt

Outcasts: Women in the Wilderness
Glyndor Gallery | April 8–July 9, 2017

Pictured above:
Companion Species, 2017
Reclaimed wool blanket, embroidery floss, thread
Courtesy of the artist and PDX Contemporary Art, Portland, OR

An American artist and member of the Seneca Nation of Indians, Marie Watt draws from history, biography, Iroquois proto-feminism and indigenous principles to address the interaction of history and memory. Her primary materials are everyday objects whose use can contain remarkable histories. Watt uses materials that are conceptually attached to narratives, exploring the stories connected with woolen blankets, cedar and iron.

Regarding the various sources Watt employs in the work, “a common thread is the search for a storyline that tethers me to place and community. I research and draw from photographs, history, indigenous place names, Seneca teachings, biography and the canon of art history.” Sometimes she references visual sources, such as a 1913 photograph of a potlatch, which she was initially drawn to because of “a blanket flying through the air like a magic carpet.” She explains, “The longer I looked at the image of this object of transportation, the more I came to see the gathering not just as a celebration but also as an act of civil disobedience.”

Watt has felt a strong connection to Spero, expressing it through an image of the She Wolf nursing Remus and Romulus. “In my studio, I turned the She Wolf’s body into an 8 x 13-foot canopy, whereby she offers to shelter and protect observers. For me, this piece attempts to address our reciprocal relationship with nature and our responsibility to be good stewards.” The title of Watt’s smaller study, Companion Species, refers to a manifesto by Donna Haraway. But she also sees a connection between this figure and Spero’s “ferocious mother.” In her work, “I see the wolf as a mother archetype and as a hybrid—a she/he/they/we. For me, dogs—and, by extension, our pets—are entry points for conversations about how we are related to animals and to the natural world.”

Marie Watt draws from history, biography, Iroquois proto-feminism and Indigenous principles to address the interaction of the arc of history with the intimacy of memory. In her tribe (Watt is an enrolled member of the Seneca Nation of Indians) and in other Indigenous communities, blankets are given away to honor those who witness important life events. She has received awards from the Joan Mitchell Foundation and the Anonymous Was a Woman Foundation. In 2015, she exhibited in the Unsuspected Possibilities show at SITE Santa Fe, and in 2016 she was commissioned by the US State Department’s Art in Embassies program to build a permanent sculpture at the newly expanded US Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. Watt holds an MFA in painting and printmaking from Yale University, attended Willamette University and the Institute of American Indian Arts and in 2016 was awarded an honorary doctorate from Willamette University.

Pictured above:
First Teachers (Looking Back Looking Forward), 2016
Reclaimed wool blanket, thread, embroidery floss
11½" x 9"
Collection of Mark A. Anderson

Pictured above:
Generous Ones (Pink Sky), 2014
Reclaimed wool blankets, satin binding, thread
14½" x 19"
Collection of Tracy Schlapp

Learn more about the artist here and here

Support for the Visual Arts Program is provided by the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Inc.; Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts; New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; New York Community Trust Edward and Sally Van Lier Fund; New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; The Pollock-Krasner Foundation; The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation; and by the Cathy and Stephen Weinroth Commissioning Fund for the Arts.