As part of the exhibition If You Remember, I’ll Remember the Block Museum of Art commissioned artist Marie Watt to create a new work, reflective of the exhibition’s themes of empathy and remembrance. Throughout Winter 2017 over 300 community members from Northwestern, Evanston, and Chicago came together to lend their hands to the creation of a project. Throughout these sewing circles participants engaged in conversations around equity, community, and justice. The resulting work is Companion Species: Ferocious Mother and Canis Familiaris (2017) which was installed in the exhibition on April 20, 2017. Watch Marie Watt and Janet Dees discuss the creation of this remarkable project:
“I think a lot about the symbiotic relationships humans have with the natural world and each other. This echoes Seneca and Iroquois teachings: We are all related, and Animals are our first teachers. These panels reflect on the She-wolf as a shelter, as a mother, as companion species. The She-wolf is mother-like, but not just in the biological sense: our ecosystem needs balanced relationships in order to thrive. These community-embroidered text panels combine to create a larger ground for more extensive embroidery.” -Marie Watt
About Marie Watt:
Marie Watt (b. 1967) is an American artist. Her work draws from history, biography, Iroquois protofeminism, and Indigenous principles, and addresses the interaction of the arc of history with the intimacy of memory.
Blankets, one of her primary materials, are everyday objects that can carry extraordinary histories of use. In her tribe (Ms. Watt is an enrolled member of the Seneca Nation of Indians) and other Indigenous communities, 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. Small works are personal meditations. Larger works are made in community, notably in “sewing circles,” public events by which anyone with time and interest can participate, and in which the fellowship and storytelling around the table can be more important than the resulting object. She uses materials that are conceptually attached to narrative: in particular, exploring the stories connected with commonplace woolen blankets, cedar, and iron.
Ms. 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; and received fellowships from the Joan Mitchell Foundation and the Anonymous Was a Woman Foundation.
Images from Companion Species Unveiling