Marc Straus

Gallery

Marie Watt uses powerful symbolism, text and group activity to create impassioned sculptural works. Her work is timely, synthesizing mythologies and history from her Native American heritage seamlessly interwoven with current international issues. In her work images of wolves and dogs reference animals as the First Teachers within Iroquois oral tradition and La Lupa Capitolina, the Etruscan she-wolf nursing of the mythological founders of Rome. Watt’s sculptures of stacked woolen blankets invoke their daily domestic use as much as art historical pillars like Trajan’s Column, Brancusi’s pedestals, and the great totem poles of the Northwest US.

Watt is an artist and citizen of the Seneca Nation with German-Scots ancestry, which informs her work and process deeply. Her layered points of influence are reflected in her artwork, particularly text elements featuring language pulled from and discussing Indigenous knowledge and Iroquois protofeminism, the matriarchal structures of certain Native American tribes, the rise of social activism throughout the 20th century, and the anti-war and anti-hate content of 1960s and 1970s music- such as the Marvin Gaye song, “What’s Going On.” Messages of both longing and hope from the past that still resonate today.

There is a recurring use of the word “mother”. Watt explains “The Iroquois concept of ‘mother’ is broad, extending from one’s mother through a long line of women.” In lived experience individuals’ relationships with their own mothers are varied and complex, falling across the spectrum from adored and loved to loathed. Instead of exclusively satisfying these expectations, Watt expands the definition, making room for a broader concept. Seeking a little bit of the caring band of attributes associated with mothers in all of us.

Like Josef Beuys and Wolfgang Laib, her specific choices of materials culled from the everyday are deep with meaning. Watt’s symbolic use of textiles, in particular, is a central tenet of her work. Whether a shirt or a blanket, these are the items that protect us against cold and external dangers. We wrap ourselves in it like a second skin. Textiles consistently play a role in Watts’ works, but especially in Blanket Stories she deals with them in a special way. She repurposes her materials from pieces that were actually owned and donated by people, embedded with their own histories before even becoming part of her projects. These origins again underline the importance of community and connection over time, reinforcing a link between the object (the textile) and the narrative in the form of writing (the story). A focus in recent years has been sewn tapestries, often produced through collaboration with sewing circles around North America. social engagements in which the fellowship and storytelling around the table can be crucial to the resultant object.

Watt deals with history and presents it in a form that is characterized by humanity. One can understand her as a conduit for the past into the present. She forms platforms that are open to new thoughts about the past, present and future.

Watt holds an MFA in painting and printmaking from Yale University; she attended Willamette University and the Institute of American Indian Arts; and in 2016 she was awarded an honorary doctorate from Willamette University.

Watt’s work has been on view in 2020 at: The Whitney Museum in the exhibition Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019, the Yale University Art Gallery in Place, Nations, Generations, Beings: 200 Years of Indigenous North American Art, the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists.

Watt was born and raised in Seattle, Washington, and currently resides in Portland, Oregon. Her work is in the permanent collections of National Gallery of Canada, the Portland Art Museum, the Smithsonian, Renwick Gallery, Albright-Knox Gallery, The Whitney Museum in NY, Seattle Art Museum, US Library of Congress, Denver Art Museum, Crystal Bridges Museum, and more.

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Selected Works
240 x 108 x 48 in.
Folded blankets, steel -  Marc Straus Gallery
Blanket Stories: Beacon, Marker, Ohi-yo

240 x 108 x 48 in.
Folded blankets, steel

 -  Marc Straus Gallery
Trek, 2014
2018
Reclaimed wool blankets, satin bindings, embroidery floss, thread
106.8 x 208.3 inches (271.3 x 529.1 cm) -  Marc Straus Gallery
Companion Species (Calling All My Relations)

2018
Reclaimed wool blankets, satin bindings, embroidery floss, thread
106.8 x 208.3 inches (271.3 x 529.1 cm)

2019
Reclaimed wool blankets, embroidery floss, thread
136 x 198.5 inches (345.4 x 504.2 cm) -  Marc Straus Gallery
Companion Species (Speech bubble)

2019
Reclaimed wool blankets, embroidery floss, thread
136 x 198.5 inches (345.4 x 504.2 cm)

2018
Reclaimed wool blankets, embroidery floss, thread
20.5 x 29 inches (52.1 x 73.7 cm) -  Marc Straus Gallery
Companion Species (Declaration)

2018
Reclaimed wool blankets, embroidery floss, thread
20.5 x 29 inches (52.1 x 73.7 cm)

2019
Reclaimed wool blankets, thread and Czech glass beads
12 x 14 in (30.5 x 35.6 cm) -  Marc Straus Gallery
Flint/Sapling

2019
Reclaimed wool blankets, thread and Czech glass beads
12 x 14 in (30.5 x 35.6 cm)

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