American artist Marie Watt was born in 1967. She holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale University (New Haven, Connecticut) and an honorary degree from Willamette University (Salem, Oregon), in addition to receiving numerous fellowships and residencies. She lives and works in Portland, Oregon, and is a member of the Seneca Nation of Indians. Her work draws from history, biography, indigenous principles, and protofeminism. It ranges from small, personal, meditative works to community-based public events, where the fellowship and storytelling, inspired by her objects, often take precedent over the art itself. Her work often addresses the ways in which the arc of history interacts with the intimacy of memory. She uses materials that are conceptually attached to narrative: for example commonplace blankets (associated with gifts of honor for those who witness important life events), cedar, and iron. Her works may be found in collections in Canada; Washington, D. C.; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Seattle, Washington.
The totem-like sculpture of folded and stacked blankets—which welcomes the public and staff to the grand atrium, gallery, and convening space of the newly expanded U.S. Embassy in Islamabad—has multiple sight lines, including those from the second and third stories where balconies open to the atrium. The character of storied blankets—–colors, textures, patterns, and worn bits— humanizes the space, while the collaborative element of blankets with unique stories from the greater community makes global textiles personal, and ideally evokes further associations and conversations about cloth, blankets, and cultural exchange.
Of this commission by Art in Embassies, the artist says, “exploring the use of blankets in the context of a project for the U. S. Embassy in Pakistan is an opportunity to celebrate the intermingling of American and Pakistani textiles and stories, as well as the rich history of textiles in the Islamic world. Creating a blanket story column for the U. S. Embassy in Pakistan offers a unique opportunity to collaborate with the local Pakistani community of Oregon, the Pakistani American community in the U. S., as well as with the U. S. Embassy in Pakistan and its Pakistani partners.”
Watt explains the title: “The project title references the historical significance of textiles in the early Muslim world, often characterized as a Textile Society. R.R. Stewart was a New York-born botanist who spent most of his life teaching and 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.”
Marie Watt (b. 1967) is an American artist. Her work draws from history, biography, protofeminism, and Indigenous principles, and addresses the interaction of the arc of history with the intimacy of memory. She uses materials that are conceptually attached to narrative: in particular, exploring the stories connected with commonplace woolen blankets, cedar, and iron.