The Rockwell Museum and artist Marie Watt invite you to submit a blanket that will become part of a monumental new sculpture at the Museum. Watt is requesting contributions blankets, quilts, afghans, or blanket-like cloth, in any condition. Drop off your blanket and story by February 15, 2017.
The blankets will create a Blanket Stories sculpture — a 14-foot totem of the personal stories and histories of the Steuben County and greater New York community. The sculpture will become a dynamic part of the Museum’s permanent collection. It will also be on view as part of an upcoming exhibition ‘Western Door’, which opens May 5, 2017.
“Blankets are everyday objects. We take them for granted, yet as we use them, they quietly record our histories: a lumpy shape, a worn binding, mended patches. Every blanket holds a story. In the secondhand and thrift-store blankets I use in much of my work, I can only guess at the story. But when I can work with contributed blankets, I ask each contributor to record the blanket’s story (or the contributor’s story as it relates to the blanket) on a tag. These stories remain with the blankets in their installations, and are also transcribed and collected, so that others can share them.”
This new work will continue Watt’s exploration of blankets and their significance as social connectors. The sculpture reflects on the humble yet significant role blankets play in our lives, as well as the Seneca presence in Western New York.
Marie Watt (b. 1967) is an American artist. Her work draws from history, biography, Iroquois proto-feminism, and indigenous principles, and addresses the interaction of the arc of history with the intimacy of memory.
A member of the Seneca Nation of Indians, one of six tribes that make up the Iroquois Confederacy, blankets hold a personal meaning for Watt. In the Seneca community, as well as other First Nations, blankets are given away to honor those who are witness to important life events. In working with blankets, her process is both solitary and collaborative. She uses materials that are conceptually attached to narrative: in particular, exploring the stories connected with commonplace woolen blankets, cedar, and iron.
“Blankets are easily overlooked objects. But I have found that they tend to have a lot of history. They are markers for memory and story. This seems to be a pretty universal thing. Collaboration is also an essential part of my work. When I look at a finished piece, I see a process that involves many hands, shared stories, and generous communities.”
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. Among other residencies, she has attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, received a fellowship from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, and the Anonymous Was a Woman Award.
Selected collections include the National Gallery of Canada, The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and Renwick Gallery, The Tacoma Art Museum, The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Facebook, The Seattle Art Museum, and The United States Library of Congress.
In 2015 she exhibited in the ‘Unsuspected Possibilities’ show at SITE Santa Fe, curated by Janet Dees, and in 2016 was commissioned by the Art in Embassies program to build a 36’ tall sculpture to be permanently installed in the newly expanded US Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Ms. Watt lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, the graphic designer Adam McIsaac, and her daughters, Maxine and Evelyn. She exhibits internationally, and is represented in Portland by PDX Contemporary Art, and in Seattle by Greg Kucera Gallery.
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