As part of a site-specific installation project commissioned by AIE for the new Embassy in Islamabad, artist Marie Watt announced an open call for donations of wool or natural fiber blankets that express unique and personal stories during the fall of 2015.
The entire collection of blankets will be rendered into a three-story-tall interior sculpture for the new Embassy’s atrium. This tower of storied blankets will be Watt’s most ambitious global community collaboration, as well as one of her tallest sculptures to date. Assembled into one totem-like column, the piece will enable the intermingling of diverse narratives including American, Pakistani, Native American, Islamic, and many others from around the globe. In a multitude of colors, textures, patterns, and worn bits, the installation will evoke associations and conversations about the rich history of the textile trade as well as the importance of cultural exchange in the Islamic world.
Based in Portland, Oregon, Watt's artistic practice explores the concept of community, particularly through her use of wool blankets and humble pieces of cloth as markers of memory, story, and tradition. As an artist of Native American (Seneca) descent, blankets also have a very personal meaning for Watt. In the Seneca Nation, as in other Indigenous groups, they are given away as gifts to honor those who witnesses important life events.
The title of her piece for the new Embassy, "Blanket Stories: Textile Society, R.R. Stewart, Ancient One" references the historical significance of textiles in the early Muslim world, often characterized as a having been a "Textile Society". R.R. Stewart was a New York-born botanist who spent most of his life traveling on foot throughout Pakistan studying the plants of the region. His impressive collection of plant specimens eventually became the basis of the country’s National Herbarium in Islamabad. The term "Ancient One" refers to the early lands and civilizations that have come to be known as Pakistan. It also refers to the Seneca word Uk’sode Gowan, meaning both great-grandmother and ancient one.
About Marie Watt
An American artist born in 1967 to the son of German-Scot ranchers who homesteaded land in Wyoming and to a daughter of the Turtle Clan of the Seneca Nation, Marie Watt’s heritage is the underpinning of her work. Formally she draws from Seneca and Indigenous teachings, proto-feminist role models, oral tradition, biography, and history. She seeks to highlight the intersection of Indigenous and Western/European contact, historical and modern. Community collaboration is an integral component of her work. She is represented by PDX Contemporary Art in Portland, Oregon.