Object of the Week – “Tear This Wall Down”

Marie Watt, a citizen of the Seneca Nation and born in Seattle, Washington, is known for her textile works, particularly those that involve the use of reclaimed blankets. She sees blankets as universal objects that are present globally and as well as at every stage of life. From birth to death, we are surrounded by blankets. She uses them to tell stories and to create a common connection between viewers, herself, and humanity at large.

In this piece, Tear This Wall Down, Watt uses a grey blanket, with multicolored patches that are layered and stacked like bricks on a building. Running perpendicularly to the patches are lines of satin, with friendly colors of pinks, blues and oranges. The piece is large, about five feet tall and wide, making it hard to miss and one that pulls in the viewer. Watt explains on her website that while smaller works are “personal meditations,” larger works are commonly made in “sewing circles, public events in which anyone may participate.” She adds that the “fellowship and storytelling that takes place around the worktable is as important as the object that grows out of it.” With this focus on community connections, history and storytelling, Watt makes work that anyone can see themselves in and make connections.

Grey blanket with multicolored rectangular patches along bottom half of blanket sewn in brick-like pattern with verticals lines of satin binding.
Marie Watt. “Tear This Wall Down,” 2007. Reclaimed wool blankets, satin binding, and thread, 61 x 64 in. (154.9 x 162.6 cm). Tacoma Art Museum. Museum purchase with funds from the Aloha Club.

Marie Watt began her formal education at Willamette University, Salem, Oregon, and then pursued an associate of fine arts in museum studies from the Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe. She earned an MFA from Yale University in 1996. Her work was awarded the Seattle Art Museum’s Betty Bowen Memorial Award in 2005, a Joan Mitchell Foundation Fellowship in 2006, and she was artist-in-residence at the Fabric Workshop in Philadelphia in 2008. Watt is currently the subject of a retrospective Marie Watt: Lodge organized by the Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University.