Wednesday, June 28, 2017 This Week's Paper

Northwest Artist Marie Watt brings blankets, stories and communities to life at TAM

Marie Watt (Seneca) is a nationally recognized Portland mixed media artist whose work explores human stories and ritual implicit in everyday objects. “Marie Watt: Lodge” is a mid-career retrospective of her work at Tacoma Art Museum from June 30 through Oct. 7. The title of the exhibition, “Lodge,” refers to a space of welcome and a place where stories are shared.

One of the exhibition’s highlights is the installation “Engine” on loan from The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Visitors enter the large-scale felted form that evokes the traditional wigwam, wickiup or igloo shelters and view a hologram projection of Native American storytellers Elaine Grinnell (Jamestown S’Klallam and Lummi), Roger Fernandes (Lower Elwha Klallam), and Johnny Moses (Tulalip), all associated with Watt’s childhood in Puget Sound. This exhibition of “Engine” marks a rare presentation of a work created at The Fabric Workshop and Museum in the Pacific Northwest.

For the past decade, Watt has worked as a mixed media artist whose work explores human stories and the ritual implicit in everyday objects. Organized by anthropology professor and faculty curator Rebecca Dobkins, “Lodge” will feature a range of work from the past decade, including stacked blanket sculptures, portrait blankets of Jim Thorpe, Ira Hayes, Susan B. Anthony and Joseph Beuys, and in addition to “Engine.” 

“Watt’s art examines the contemporary condition through an ingenious combination of traditional forms, stories and a refined visual vocabulary,” said Rock Hushka, Tacoma Art Museum’s Curator of Contemporary and Northwest Art. “This exhibition offers insight into the people who are important to Watt as an artist, a Native American, and a mother through the metaphor of a blanket, a symbol of security and warmth that has universal meaning. As a Seneca member, Watt also recalls the complex history of blankets in Native American culture.”

Born in Seattle in 1967 and raised in Redmond, Watt received her Bachelor of Science in Speech Communications and Art from Willamette University in 1990. She went on to earn her Master of Fine Arts in painting and printmaking from Yale University in 1996 and has enjoyed a highly successful career as an artist, teacher, and storyteller. She has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions over the past 15 years and is included in numerous public and private collections throughout the United States.

“Marie Watt’s community-based approach to making art requires that museums engage visitors in new and exciting ways through her social sculpture. This project reinforces our ongoing commitment to exhibitions and acquisitions that reflect the rich experience and diversity of the communities of the Pacific Northwest,” said Stephanie A. Stebich, director of Tacoma Art Museum.

In addition to the objects on display, the exhibition will be accompanied by text panels, labels, a video component, and a full color monograph written by professor Dobkins that places the artist’s work within the broader context of contemporary art.

Tacoma Art Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for students/military/seniors (65+), $25 for a family (two adults and up to four children under 18). Children 5 and under free. Visit