This past Saturday I visited the Tacoma Art Museum specifically to view Marie Watt: Lodge, a mid-career retrospective which was organized by the Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University. It was a great experience for a number of reasons. The friend I went with is also an artist and has worked for a variety of museums, so he always has an interesting perspective. He also had donated a blanket for one of the pieces on display, which we managed to find. He located the hanging tag he had written over five years ago on a blanket midway up the stack.
I’ve read a lot about Marie Watt’s work and seen some of her prints firsthand at Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts. I hadn’t seen her blanket stacks in-person yet however, which seem to be what I thought of when her name came up. As the picture above shows, there were two of them on display. Dwelling is in the foreground and is a stack of flat blankets (it was also the one that my friend found his donated blanket in). The stack in the background was taller and featured folded blankets.
So much of her work features, incorporates, or is derived from blankets! But I hadn’t seen a lot of the other examples, which were all pretty great. I loved her smaller works stitched together from wool blanket remnants. (See below for an example of one of my favorites.) There were also stitched portraits of Joseph Beuys and Susan B. Anthony which managed to appear both stately and soft at the same time.
In addition to all of this, there were a selection of her prints on paper, all of which were very nice. It was interesting to see how they all related to each other, even though many were done years apart from each other. But the coolest part was probably Engine, which was a large installation that you can go inside. It is like a felt cave and has projected stories being told by three different individuals.
The one thing I found disconcerting was the two pieces that were cast sculptures. Although they still kept the blanket theme, and I liked them on their own well enough, they seemed a little jarring (being made of cast bronze and cast resin) compared to all of the softness of the blankets and prints. What made this visit interesting to me as well, is that the last time I was in the same gallery it had a huge wall of wool Pendleton blankets from Dale Chihuly’s collection. This time, there were still lots of blankets, but the experience was completely different.