Hunterdon Art Museum presents Companion Species (At What Cost): 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 stitched during sewing circles and pieced together to form two monumental tapestries, the 16.5-foot-long “Companion Species (At What Cost)” and the 17.5-foot-long “Companion Species (Calling All My Relations).”
Sewing circles are integral to Marie Watt’s work. Organized by the artist, they create space for face-to-face, multigenerational gatherings of people from different backgrounds and experiences who share stories. “Each person’s stitch is unique, like a thumbprint. As the threads intersect and blend, I see them as a metaphor for how we are all related,” says Watt.
At the heart of this exhibition are varied textile works. Drawing from history, biography, Iroquois proto-feminism, and Indigenous teachings, Watt explores the intersection of community, history, and storytelling. Language is one method she uses to address these topics. She has beaded the words “proto” three times in the center of “Companion Species (Saddle)” (2019), another piece featured in the exhibition, and she has stitched the phrases “mother, mother” across the span of “Companion Species (At What Cost)” (2020). Such words address the power of Clan Mothers in Seneca tradition.
Marie Watt, “Companion Species (At What Cost)” (2020), reclaimed wool blankets, embroidery floss, thread (Murzi Morgan Private Collection, courtesy Marc Straus Gallery, New York)
Many of the words found throughout her works allude to the value of family and connectivity. The piece “Companion Species (Calling All My Relations)” (2018) is filled with terms of kinship. The words “companion species” are used prominently 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 our first instructors.”
This exhibition also features wall text prompts that challenge viewers to consider specific decolonizing concepts addressed in Watt’s artwork and her community involvement activities. This one-of-a-kind text is intended to decolonize this institutional space in both 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 fostered at the exhibition venue. Her work has been exhibited and held in permanent collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, 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 in conjunction with this exhibition on January 16 at the Marc Straus Gallery in New York City. 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.
Significant support for this exhibition and related programming is provided by the Coby Foundation, LTD.