Marie Watt is an American artist. Born in 1967 to the son of Wyoming ranchers and a daughter of the Turtle Clan of the Seneca Nation (Haudenosaunee), she identifies as “half cowboy and half Indian.” Formally, her work draws from Seneca and Indigenous principles, proto-feminist role models, oral tradition, biography, and history. She explores and reveals the historical and contemporary intersections of Indigenous and Western/European cultures.

Studio news

Sewing circles for SITE Santa Fe

Back in May, we conducted several sewing circles in the Santa Fe area as part of our contribution to Unsuspected Possibilities, a collaborative exhibition featuring Sarah Oppenheimer, Leonardo Drew, and myself (which is up through 04 January and you should go see it).

We worked with the Santa Fe University of Art & Design, the Santa Fe Indian School, and Tierra Encantada High School, in addition to the community at SITE, on what would ultimately be First Teachers Balance the Universe Part I (Predator) & Part II (Prey), both of which are included in the show.

Joanne Lefrak, SITE’s Director of Outreach and Education, produced this video of the sewing circles (ably shot by Andy Primm), which gets at the collaborative nature of my work in a way that is difficult to convey with still photographs. It’s a lovely piece; and I’m grateful to Joanne and SITE for making it.

Four days in Ottawa

I was honored to be invited to be included in Contemporary Conversations, a series produced by the U.S. Embassy in Canada and the Department of State’s Art in Embassies program. I delivered a lecture, participated in a discussion with Greg Hill at the National Gallery of Canada and a roundtable at Carelton University, and held a sewing circle hosted by the NGC. It was a great turnout: more than 200 people came and sewed and shared stories.

We worked on panels that will be incorporated into First Teachers Balance the Universe, Part I: Things That Fly (Predator), which is part of my exhibit at SITE Santa Fe in July of 2015. The embassy prepared a wonderful time-lapse video of the event, which you can see above; and also a short interview, which you can see after the jump.

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Recent work

Photograph by Aaron Johanson

Witness, 2015

Witness, 2015
71 × 180.5 in.
Reclaimed wool blanket, embroidery floss, thread
Photograph by Aaron Johanson

An ongoing body of work has been drawn from a 1913 photo (see below) of a First Nations, Quamichan, Potlatch, off Vancouver Island. A potlatch is a ceremonial tradition shared by Coast Salish Indigenous people who traditionally occupy the Pacific Northwest coast of Canada and United States. The word potlatch comes from the Nootkan – and, later, Chinook jargon word – patchitle, which means “to give.”

I like the vision of ecstatic giving, as some potlatches were rumored to have so many gifts, particularly folded and stacked blankets, that they actually would touch the ceilings of the longhouse. Potlatches were and continue to be part of the Coast Salish economy and a means for displaying social relationships in the community. In 1913, a potlatch was also a demonstration of civil disobedience, as potlatches were banned by the Canadian and U.S. governments between 1885 to the 1950s. Not only did the government disapprove of Indigenous people gathering: giving away one’s wealth was considered backwards and wasteful; it was in conflict of the European value of acquiring wealth to indicate personal success.

In the image below, a blanket is literally flying in the air as the host family casts gifts from a rooftop porch to the crowd below.  I have come to think of blankets as transportation objects, both physically and metaphorically. When I look at this image and think of others looking at the image, we inadvertently join crowd and become witnesses to this ongoing tradition. In addition to Witness, I have created etchings and small embroidered sampler pieces that further reflect on this image.

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Photograph by Aaron Johanson

Generous Ones: Chair, Observer, Ancestor, 2015

Generous Ones: Chair, Observer, Ancestor, 2015
75 × 164.5 in.
Reclaimed wool blankets, thread
Photograph by Aaron Johanson