Hunterdon Art Museum exhibit explores decolonization with Indigenous artist Marie Watt

Hunterdon Art Museum presents Companion species (at what price): the works of Marie Watt, on display until January 9, 2022. This exhibition, which highlights the artist’s tapestries, includes two works constructed from panels sewn in sewing circles and assembled to form two monumental tapestries, the ” Companion Species (at what price) 16.5 feet long) ”and“ Companion Species (calling all my relations) 17.5 feet long. ”

Sewing circles are an integral part of Marie Watt’s work. Organized by the artist, they create a space for face-to-face and multigenerational encounters of people from different backgrounds and experiences who share stories. “Each person’s stitch is unique, like a thumbprint. As the threads cross and blend together, I see them as a metaphor for how we’re all related, ”says Watt.

At the heart of this exhibition are various textile works. Drawing inspiration from Iroquois history, biography, proto-feminism, and Indigenous teachings, Watt explores the intersection of community, history, and storytelling. Language is one method she uses to approach these topics. She beaded the words “proto” three times at the center of “Companion Species (Saddle)” (2019), another piece featured in the exhibit, and she sewed the phrases “mother, mother” throughout the length of ” Companion Species (At What Price) ”(2020). Such words address the power of Clan Mothers in the Seneca tradition.

Marie Watt, “Companion species (at what price) (2020), recovered wool blankets, embroidery thread, thread (Murzi Morgan Private Collection, courtesy Marc Straus Gallery, New York)

Many words found in his works hint at the value of family and connectedness. The piece “Companion Species (Calling All My Relations)” (2018) is full of kinship terms. The words “companion species” are used extensively in this show and appear in many of Watt’s titles, implying that relationships extend beyond humans. Watt notes: “In my culture, we consider animals to be our first teachers. “

This exhibit also features textual wall prompts that challenge viewers to consider specific concepts of decolonization addressed in Watt’s artwork and community engagement activities. This unique text is intended to decolonize this institutional space both in form and content.

Marie Watt is an American artist and citizen of the Seneca Nation of Indians, one of the six tribes of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Watt has maintained a tradition of indigenous art, in which indigenous knowledge is encouraged in the exhibition space. His work has been exhibited and preserved in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Yale University Art Gallery, and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, among others.

A sewing circle with Marie Watt will be held on the sidelines of this exhibition on January 16 at the Marc Straus Gallery in New York. Learn more about this free event and RSVP to attend.

The Hunterdon Art Museum is located in Clinton, New Jersey, and is open Thursday through Sunday.

For more information, visit hunterdonartmuseum.org.

Marie Watt, “Companion species (Calling all my relations)(2018), reclaimed wool blankets, embroidery thread, thread (collection of Beth Rudin DeWoody)

Significant support for this exhibition and related programming is provided by the Coby Foundation, LTD.

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