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Marie Watt, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Engine, 2009. Hand-felted wool, wood, three-channel video projections. 108 x 240 x 162 inches (274 x 609 x 411 cm). Marie Watt, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Engine (detail), 2009. Hand-felted wool, wood, three-channel video projections. 108 x 240 x 162 inches (274 x 609 x 411 cm). Marie Watt, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Engine (detail), 2009. Hand-felted wool, wood, three-channel video projections. 108 x 240 x 162 inches (274 x 609 x 411 cm).
Marie Watt, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Engine, 2009. Hand-felted wool, wood, three-channel video projections. 108 x 240 x 162 inches (274 x 609 x 411 cm).
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Marie Watt, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Engine (detail), 2009. Hand-felted wool, wood, three-channel video projections. 108 x 240 x 162 inches (274 x 609 x 411 cm).
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Marie Watt, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Engine (detail), 2009. Hand-felted wool, wood, three-channel video projections. 108 x 240 x 162 inches (274 x 609 x 411 cm).
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Marie Watt

Marie Watt has a habit of creating communities whenever she makes art. Her work often draws on the collective experience of people brought together for the creation of the artwork, such as her Blanket Stories series (2004–), works made up of donated blankets carefully stacked into neat, monumental forms. Each blanket has a tag filled out by the donor telling of its significance. A simple, humble work of art is infused with the collective experience embodied in the blankets, which are elemental symbols of shelter, of home. These works draw on Watt’s lineage as a member of the Seneca nation and the idea that home is as much in the blanket and its implied shelter as it is in the stories that bind a family, or a community, or a people together.

For Engine (2009), Watt draws on the powerful narrative tradition of Native American storytelling, using projections of storytellers Elaine Grinnell of the Jamestown S’Klallam and Lummi Tribes, Roger Fernandes of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, and Johnny Moses of the Tulalip Tribe. Their warm and soothing voices emanate from small, apparitional projected images within an amazing cave-like structure. Approached from the outside the structure resembles an igloo of wood and felt. Winding one’s way inside, the silence of the felt is deeply sensed; the interior is dark and palpable. Felted stalactites and stalagmites and undulating felted walls are marked by silhouettes of hands felted with brilliantly dyed wool. Consciously emulating the earliest known human mark-making found in cave art, the handprints simply announce “Me—I am here,” in the context of stories that tell of the collective experience of native peoples through tales of creation and the power of nature.

Watt’s use of felt, created in partnership with the FWM, is appropriate. Felt is the oldest and simplest cloth in the world. Felt isn’t woven; wet animal hairs are agitated into matting. It is an ancient and universal fabric. Engine has deep roots in her own native tradition but touches on the wider traditions of the elemental human need for protection and identity. We are all, ultimately, natives of this world.

Bio
Born 1967, Seattle. Lives and works in Brooklyn and Portland.
Marie Watt received an MFA in Painting and Printmaking from Yale University in 1996 and also holds an AFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts and a BS from Willamette University. She has been recognized by the Joan Mitchell Foundation, the Betty Bowen Memorial Award, and the Anonymous Was a Woman Foundation. In 2011, Watt was awarded a site-specific commission from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Watt has exhibited steadily since 1996 throughout the United States and held a residency at the Lower East Side Printshop in 2008. Her work has been prominently installed at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and the Seattle Art Museum.
 
Marie Watt is a descendent of the Turtle Clan of the Seneca Nation, and her heritage plays a distinct role in her artistic practice. She brings natural materials and community involvement to a Pop Art sensibility, combining Native American tradition with Western art history.