Meet the Artist: Marie Watt

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  • Explore Marie Watt’s artistic journey through unconventional materials and textiles. In this video she discusses how her work Edson’s Flag honors veterans, her family, and her Native culture. Learn how her artistic focus turned to blankets, which she sees as humble and simple objects that are imprinted with the powerful stories of our lives.

    I really like inviting people to think about the blankets in our lives.
    I'm compelled by how an object that in some ways is so humble and simple can have so much meaning and power.

    I went to school to get an MFA in painting and printmaking. And around that time, I was starting to experiment with other materials, corn husks, walnut ink, stone. But yeah, I've been working now with textiles for maybe the last almost 20 years.

    Edson's Flag is an artwork that I made in 2004. Uncle Ed is my mom's great uncle. He was a member of the U.S. Air Corps as an airplane mechanic and served in World War II. Uncle Ed was a kind and generous and just a really smart guy.

    The flag was given to my grandmother when Uncle Ed passed away and rather than it staying wrapped in that triangular shape that military flags or casket flags are often kind of folded into, I think that in our family, maybe there's this sense of giving it additional purpose. And so my grandmother passed the flag on to my mother and then my mother gave the flag to my brother-in-law who thought he would fly it from his boat. Then my mother passed the flag onto me. And around the same time, I started working with blankets in my work.

    Edson's Flag is the first work where I included an army blanket. It was a way of acknowledging people's service and acknowledging the stories that come with that service.

    I was drawn to this material because of how we use blankets in my family and in the Seneca community, we give away blankets to honor people for being witness to important life events. And this practice is held in common with other indigenous nations too. I'm drawn to the fact that blankets are also imprinted with stories. They receive us as infants and in many ways they accompany our departures. But we’re always imprinting on them. In Edson's Flag, there is one mended spot that I recall when somebody almost wanted to clean up that spot thinking it was like a blemish. But like for me, stains and mended parts are like beauty marks. They tell you something about the story and the life of that object. I feel like in many ways I'm a custodian of these stories because I'm the beneficiary of learning from so many different people, but also making sure that I amplify those stories back out in the community.
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