We gave thanks for the story, for all parts of the story
because it was by the light of those challenges we knew
—Joy Harjo (Muscogee/Creek), National Poet Laureate
Multimedia artist Marie Watt is a storyteller. As a member of the Seneca Nation (one of six that comprise the Haudenosaunee Confederacy) with German-Scots ancestry, her stories draw from Native and non-Native traditions: Greco-Roman myth; pop music and Pop art; Indigenous oral narratives; Star Wars and Star Trek.
Watt reminds us of the stories told by her Seneca ancestors: how the world came to be; what we have to learn from animals; and our ethical obligations to the planet, as well as to past and future generations. She tells stories about humble, everyday materials and objects—blankets, quilts, corn husks, letters, ladders, and dreamcatchers—that carry intimate meanings and memories.
Over the course of her career, Watt has told these stories through prints. The collaborative printmaking process is consistent with Watt’s desire to build communities through art and storytelling. The stories the prints tell are personal, cultural, and universal, dealing with elemental themes of shelter, dreams, the earth and sky, and the cosmos.
As a Klamath elder once told her: “My story changes when I know your story.”
This retrospective exhibition traces the artist’s career in print from 1996 to the present. For the first time, Watt’s early work from Yale, and her collaborations with master printers at Crows Shadow Institute, Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, Tamarind Institute, and more recently Mullowney Printing Company are exhibited alongside the artist’s monumental textiles and sculpture. This exhibition also explores Watt’s evolving practice of convening sewing and printing circles with family, friends, and community members.
Marie Watt (born 1967) holds an MFA in painting and printmaking from Yale University; she also has degrees from Willamette University and the Institute of American Indian Arts. Her work is in museum collections across the United States including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Seattle Art Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Yale University Art Gallery, the Crystal Bridges Museum, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian and Renwick Gallery, the Tacoma Art Museum, the Denver Art Museum, the Portland Art Museum, and the Johnson Museum.
Drawn from the collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his family foundation, Storywork: The Prints of Marie Watt was organized by the University Galleries at the University of San Diego, where it was on view in 2022, and curated by John Murphy, Philip and Lynn Straus Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, and former Hoehn Curatorial Fellow for Prints at the University of San Diego. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with essays by curator John Murphy and Jolene Rickard, associate professor in the Department of the History of Art and Visual Studies at Cornell University.
At the Johnson Museum, its presentation was organized by Andrea Inselmann, the Gale and Ira Drukier Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, and supported in part by the Russell ’77 and Diana Hawkins Exhibition Fund.