Memory Map Smartphone Tour: McFlag

In McFlag (1996), Jaune Quick-to-See Smith critiques the commercialization of American nationalism by creating a US flag that directly connects the national symbol with corporate branding and advertising. Composed of oil, paper, and newspaper, Smith affixes speakers to the canvas to mimic the dish-like ears of Disney’s iconic mascot Mickey Mouse, and co-opts the ‘big, bigger, biggest’ language of McDonald’s slogans, to humorously depict the US government as being under the control of multinational corporations.

Many artists whose work influenced Smith’s—including Jasper Johns and David Hammons—have also taken liberties with the representation of the American flag. Here, however, Smith’s use is explicitly anti-capitalist. Artist Marie Watt reflects on McFlag as part of the free smartphone tour of Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map at SAM, perceiving the work as a rebuke to powerful empires. All 19 stops of the exhibition’s audio tour are accessible by scanning the QR code next to select artworks on view in SAM’s galleries or by visiting our SoundCloud. Memory Map closes this Sunday, May 12, so don’t miss out—reserve your tickets to see the exhibition before it’s gone.

McFlag, 1996

NARRATOR: Smith titled this work McFlag and gave the canvas “ears” made of speakers that resemble Mickey Mouse’s ears. She layers brand identities like McDonald’s and Disney over the American flag, and suggests that American commercialism and American nationalism have become inseparable. 

MARIE WATT: I am Marie Watt, and I am an artist and member of the Seneca Nation of Indians. 

I think that one of the things that Jaune Quick-to-See Smith does in this painting is she really does call upon us to think about these different constructs of empire, whether it’s nationhood or the entertainment industry. I am very much aware is when you zoom into this image and you start looking at the collage elements that have washes of paint over them, how there’s phrases like “the last frontier,” and “spirits are rich,” and “prices are low” and “big business,” and it’s interesting to reflect on the relationship between consumerism and stereotypes, between consumerism and colonization, and even consumerism and environmental degradation. And so this piece on one hand, I think is playful and funny, and yet, it also sort of looks at this darker side of empires.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: McFlag, 1996, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, oil, paper, and newspaper on canvas with speakers and electrical cord, three parts: 60 × 100 in. overall, Tia Collection. Fabricated by Neal Ambrose-Smith, © Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Photograph courtesy the artist and Garth Greenan Gallery, New York.

Muse/News: Spring Into Fall, Gwen’s Care, and Steely Watt

SAM News

Artnet has you covered with “9 Must-See Shows Around the U.S. This Spring,” including one for an artist who “tackles the weight of history with humor and wit.” Joyce J. Scott: Walk a Mile in My Dreams is now on view at the Baltimore Museum of Art; Seattle audiences get to see it this fall when the retrospective—co-organized by the BMA and SAM—travels here.

Local News

Rachel Gallaher for Seattle Magazine on Subterranean Ceremonies, the solo show of Sky Hopinka on view now through May 26 at the Frye Art Museum. 

Isabella Breda of the Seattle Times on the work of Children of the Setting Sun, an Indigenous-led and -centered nonprofit based in Bellingham that “defies the traditional categories of a ‘media’ group.”  

Black Arts Legacies, a project of Cascade PBS, debuts its third season of stories of Black artists and arts organizations in Seattle. Don’t miss this feature by Jas Keimig about Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence: her young life in Harlem, independent artistic vision, and long partnership with husband Jacob Lawrence. 

“The emotional quality of this work — the gaze, the moody colors, the otherworldliness of its background — shows Knight’s signature attentiveness, the great care she afforded all of her subjects.”

Inter/National News

Via Artnet: “Why Does the Louvre Want to Give the Mona Lisa Her Own Room?”

Via Howard Halle for ARTnews: “As Surrealism Turns 100, a Look at Its Enduring Legacy.”

Via Leslie Wayne for the New York Times: “At the Carnegie Museum of Art, an installation by the artist Marie Watt celebrates the region’s industrial history with I-beams and glass.” Watt’s Blanket Stories is a beloved work in SAM’s collection.

“Steel fits right in with her vision: It was steel from Pittsburgh that helped build the Empire State Building and the George Washington Bridge in New York, and many other famous structures. And it was Mohawk Native Americans, who have been celebrated in her past works, who worked on many of those projects, earning them the moniker ‘skywalkers’ for their daring feats on steel beams.”

And Finally

“Dropping Stitches at Knit Night.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Chloe Collyer.

Memory Map Smartphone Tour: Introduction

“It’s that maybe [my art] will start to crack this whole issue of Native Americans being invisible. Being Indigenous in making art means that you’re looking at the world through lenses that are curved or changed by your upbringing and by your worldview.”

– Jaune Quick-to-See Smith

Welcome to the world of Jaune Quick-to-See Smith! With Memory Map now on view at SAM, we’ll be sharing excerpts from the exhibition’s free smartphone tour throughout its run in Seattle. Produced by the Whitney Museum of American Art, the tour is accessible via our SoundCloud or through your own device by scanning the QR code next to select works on view in the galleries. Verbal descriptions of some of the artworks on view are also available for low/no vision visitors.

The tour’s first stop introduces listeners to Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and the many themes her artwork explores. It also introduces listeners to the guest artists featured throughout the tour, including Neal Ambrose-Smith, Andrea Carlson, Jeffrey Gibson, G. Peter Jemison, Josie Lopez, and Marie Watt. Tune in now!

Memory Map Introduction

NARRATOR: Welcome to Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map. Together we’ll explore five decades of Smith’s career, looking at paintings, prints, drawings and sculpture. 

JAUNE QUICK-TO-SEE SMITH: Most people will never have heard of me. And that’s not off-putting.

NARRATOR: Jaune Quick-to-See Smith:

JAUNE QUICK-TO-SEE SMITH: It’s that maybe it will start to crack this whole issue of Native Americans being invisible. Being Indigenous in making art means that you’re looking at the world through lenses that are curved or changed by your upbringing and by your worldview. 

NARRATOR: For Smith, who is a citizen of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation, that worldview first began to form in the Pacific Northwest and western Montana. Today, Smith lives and works in New Mexico. Throughout her life and work, she has underscored the importance of the land and of Indigenous communities. As we move through the exhibition, we’ll look at the ways in which Smith addresses the traumas of Native American people with rigor, inventiveness, and critical humor. 

You can use this guide to explore the works in any order you wish. As you go, you’ll be hearing not only from Smith but from writers and other artists including Neal Ambrose-Smith, Andrea Carlson, Jeffrey Gibson, G. Peter Jemison, Josie Lopez, and Marie Watt. 

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Meet the 2023 Betty Bowen Award Finalists

Every year, SAM and the Betty Bowen Committee, chaired by Gary Glant, give the Betty Bowen Award, a juried award that comes with an unrestricted cash award of $15,000 and a solo exhibition at SAM. The award was founded in 1977 to continue the legacy of local arts advocate and supporter Betty Bowen and honors a Northwest artist (from Washington, Oregon, or Idaho) for their original, exceptional, and compelling work. In addition, two Special Recognition Awards in the amount of $2,500 and three Special Commendation Awards in the amount of $1,250 will be awarded by the Betty Bowen Committee.

Recent winners include Elizabeth Malaska (2022; her solo show All Be Your Mirror is on view November 17, 2023–June 16, 2024),  Anthony White (2021), and Dawn Cerny (2020). On view in SAM’s galleries right now are works by past winners Natalie Ball (2018), Jack Daws (2015), and Marie Watt (2005). The connections between SAM and these exceptional artists from our region continue over the years. 

Today, we are announcing the six finalists of the 2023 award who were selected from a pool of 414 applicants. Stay tuned for the announcement of the winner on October 23!

Derek Franklin – Portland, Oregon

Derek Franklin is an artist, curator, and artistic director who utilizes painting and sculpture to investigate the ways in which one responds to violence inextricably woven into societal structures. Drawing from constructivist theatre design, Franklin conceptualizes the home as a kind of stage and centers his inquiry on the objects that bear witness to daily domestic rituals, such as eating or drinking. Activated by the audience’s presence, Franklin’s work asks viewers to engage in communal experiences of sadness, awkwardness, and humor.


Lisa Liedgren Alexandersson – Seattle, Washington

Lisa Liedgren Alexandersson’s current project explores the intersections of artistic hierarchy, labor, and skill through the process of creating cotton and linen woven works. These materials evoke the history of painting through both material and the notion of the grid, a key point of investigation for their work. Adapting 1960’s Swedish kitchen towel weaving instructions into new artistic works, Liedgren Alexandersson prods the dual status of textiles as domestic, utilitarian objects, and as demonstrations of skillful aesthetic exploration.


Mary Ann Peters – Seattle, Washington

As a second generation Arab-American, Mary Ann Peters’s work constructs an outline for cultural inquiry that employs history, architecture, science, and heritage to respond to undermined diasporic narratives. Peters filters a personal exploration of these themes through the concept of audience perception and the ethical considerations of artistic discourse. Peters challenges the concept of an image being neutral, instead focusing on visuals that coalesce and redefine contemporary topics.


Ido (Lisa) Radon – Portland, Oregon

Ido Radon’s mixed media and multi-sensorial work is guided by long-term interests in the ideological and material structures and processes that produce reality under the conditions of advanced capitalism. Radon interrogates the use of various technologies to mediate the abstractions of capitalism and counter-histories of revolutionary impulses. The rise of the personal computer and community computing provide a historical and cultural grounding through which Radon incarnates feminist theory and critical discourses in complex aestheticized forms. 


Samantha Wall – Portland, Oregon

Samantha Wall’s recent series, Beyond Bloodlines, pulls from Korean folklore and Euro-centric mythologies to expose the effects of alienation and exile within the diaspora. Delicately layered on Dura-lar, the symbolic form of the serpent woman represents the status of Otherness applied to women who deviate from narrow margins of social acceptance. Wall’s drawings navigate the artist’s identity as a Black Korean immigrant, and remodel pathways for Black American narratives of existence within the US. 


Tariqa Waters – Seattle, Washington

Tariqa Waters is a multimedia artist who invokes traditional pop aesthetics to mediate the co-opting of Black culture, and consumerism. Her immersive installations, video works, large-scale sculptures, and photographs utilize humor, satire, and spectacle to critique and defy expectations, incorporating intentional anachronisms that navigate ideas of femininity, gender, race, and beauty. By recalling memory, myth, and tall-tales, Waters lays bare the contradictions and dualities rooted in Americana aesthetics.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Images: Installation view of Grief is On My Calendar Everyday at 2:00 PM, 2023, Derek Franklin, mixed media, 110 x 216 x 192 in. © Derek Franklin. B-cognition, 2023, Lisa Liedgren Alexandersson, linen, cotton, and wood, 63 x 30 x 240 in. Photo: Musse Barclay, © Lisa Liedgren Alexandersson. impossible monument (the threads that bind), 2023, Mary Ann Peters, silk, silk thread, silk waste, silk pods, glycerin, wood, and water, 84 x 60 x 144 in., © Mary Ann Peters. Sail or Temporary composition of a specter of a world, 2023, Ido Radon,, mixed media, 138 x 47 x 2 in. © Ido Radon. Becoming, 2023, Samantha Wall, conté crayon and ink on Dura-Lar, 80 x 80 in., © Samantha Wall. Pink Ball Barrette, 2022, Tariqa Waters, blown glass, 9 x 9 x 9 in. © Tariqa Waters.

Endless Possibilities in the Art World: Emerging Arts Leader Samantha Companatico Reflects

Originally from Rhode Island, I spent countless hours roaming the galleries and storied halls of Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), soaking in all of the art, and hearing new concepts. I wondered if one day I would be someone whose artwork would be up on those walls. I thought about how I could be a part of creating these special places for others. From there, I attended the San Francisco Art Institute where I obtained my BFA in Printmaking and was selected for the Arion Press Bookbinding Apprenticeship. I recently moved to Seattle for this internship from Portland, Oregon where I was the recipient of the Undergrowth Educational Print Fund, a studio scholarship program at Mullowney Printing Company. I had the opportunity to work closely with several well established artists over the course of both these apprenticeships such as Enrique Chagoya, Marie Watt, Jeffrey Gibson, and Kara Walker. As I move forward in my career, I am eager to find ways to incorporate myself into the local book and print arts community in Seattle.

Admittedly, I felt scared and scattered during my first few weeks at SAM, trying to find my place while putting my best foot forward. When I was first asked to consider the personal and professional goals I hoped to achieve, I only had questions for myself about what I wanted to do and about what I wanted to try next. Is working in a museum for me? Is conservation something I want to pursue further? Do I want to or need to go back to school? These questions shaped my conversations at SAM, and I am so thankful for the support from the conservation department as I confronted these uncertainties. 

While at SAM, I learned about the education and career paths of other conservators and museum professionals. It was eye-opening to see how conservators at SAM build connections and community with other artists and academics. As I focused on conservation writing and object preparation for future gallery rotations, I am now more excited than ever to take my newfound skills into my future endeavors in the art world, whatever they might be.

I believe the path to a better world is through respect for art, the skill of craft, an understanding of people, and a recognition that art has a powerful role to play in supporting a hopeful transformation of the world. The ways in which I see SAM aiming for equity within the entire organization has been inspiring. To have this symbiotic relationship between my personal artwork, my passion for historical objects, and my political convictions is why I continue my work in uncovering hidden histories and sharing my knowledge with others.

It’s bittersweet as my Emerging Arts Leader Internship comes to a close. My experience at SAM has been nothing short of life-changing and my work with the conservation team has been a dream come true. I will always look back on this experience and my time with Geneva, Liz, Nick, and fellow intern Caitlyn fondly. I hope one day again I might have the chance to color match tissue to an object for repair, attempt to reattach a broken handle on a cedar bark purse again, or write one last condition report. I will forever cherish being able to work so closely with objects from around the world. Forming such a personal relationship with the art that I grew up enamored by and considering it in a completely different way has been one of the greatest learning experiences I could have ever hoped for.

– Samantha Companatico, SAM Emerging Arts Leader Intern in Conservation

Photos: Chloe Collyer.

The Importance of Preventative Care: Emerging Arts Leader Jennifer Beetem Reflects

Over the decade between my very first lab tour at the Seattle Art Museum and my SAM Emerging Arts Leader Internship in Conservation, I learned that the scope within which conservators work is much larger than the lab. My earlier internships took place in private practice home studios, on-site projects, and archaeological fieldwork. During my EAL internship, I did numerous preventive conservation projects in collections spaces, shared workspaces, and the galleries. As SAM’s first IAIA Collections Care Intern, I am excited to share about the IAIA and the projects I’ve worked on! 

The Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) is an intertribal college in Santa Fe, New Mexico. As a non-Native conservator whose work intersects with collected Indigenous objects, I enrolled in its museum studies online certificate program to study museum history and contemporary practices. Over the past two years, I participated in class discussions and learned from stellar professors on the best practices in navigating collections and curatorial work. This last semester I successfully hustled for an in-person internship for credit with SAM Senior Collections Care Manager Marta Pinto-Llorca.

Preventive conservation is like preventive medicine: appropriate and timely care intended to slow deterioration. This includes monitoring objects’ condition, using safe storage and display materials, managing indoor climates, emergency planning, surface cleaning, and pest management. Preventive care review included shadowing SAM Collections Care Associate Vaughn Meekins on his weekly gallery cleaning rounds. 

Here is a glimpse of the preventive care that was completed for Marie Watt’s sculpture Blanket Stories: Three Sisters, Four Pelts, Sky Woman, Cousin Rose, and All My Relations. Before installation in American Art: The Stories We Carry, conservation workers treated the wool blankets to prevent introducing invisible pest activity into the gallery. Vaughn Meekins, SAM Collections Technician Ignacio Lopez, and I spent many hours non-contact vacuuming both sides of each blanket, refolding, then sealing batches in plastic to freeze for a week. 

On my days at the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park, I supported periodic gallery rotations of scroll paintings and textiles. Marta trained me to handle boxed scrolls and to safely unbox, unroll, roll, and box Japanese hanging scrolls. SAM Senior East Asian Paintings Conservator Tanya Uyeda taught me specific terms related to Japanese scroll paintings which added to my vocabulary for condition reporting paper and textiles. 

Over many downtown work sessions, I condition mapped William Cordova’s massive mixed-media assemblage Untitled (Cosmos). Cordova intentionally applied dust, unstable collage adhesives, and non-archival tape in his artwork, so it was important to create a detailed condition map before going on view later this year. To mitigate risks during installation and display, I gently tested delaminating collage papers with an air puffer and collected runaway pieces in labeled bags.

Working with invisible disabilities is tough and I’m grateful to my community for sharing collective ambition to build a culture of caregiving: for people and for art. Thank you to SAM for giving me the space to cook up my first public education session! For my EAL intern gallery talk, I introduced the subject of preventive conservation to colleagues and visitors alike, and pantomimed how to dust frames, objects, and casework. I loved fielding questions and teaching skills people can use to care for art in their own homes!

– Jennifer Beetem, SAM Emerging Arts Leader Intern in Conservation

Photos: Alborz Kamalizad & Marta Pinto-Llorca.

Object of the Week: Blanket Stories

Every blanket tells a story. From their weaving structure, hems, threads, and wear, one can uncover the many unspoken stories of both the blanket and its owners, past and present.

Marie Watt is an Indigenous artist from the Seneca Nation whose practice deliberates the intricacies of history, community, and storytelling. For Blanket Stories: Three Sisters, Four Pelts, Sky Woman, Cousin Rose, and All My Relations, Watt collected blankets through an open call to the public, with some blankets coming from donations from her community. Some of the blankets have visible tags that state the owner’s name and story. These blankets hold the memories and stories of those who donated them, while simultaneously sharing personal connections, community history, and Iroquois creation stories. In the words of the artist:

“As I fold and stack blankets, they begin to form columns that, to me, hold many references: linen closets, architectural braces, memorials (e.g. the Trajan Column), sculpture (e.g. Brancusi), the great totem poles of the Northwest, and the giant conifers among which I grew up. In Native communities, blankets are given away to honor people for witnessing important life events, births, and comings-of-age, graduations and marriages, namings, and honorings. Among Native people it is as much of a privilege to give a blanket away as to receive one.”

– Marie Watt

Raised by her Seneca mother in the Pacific Northwest, Watt was taught the importance of the continuation and celebration of Indigenous culture. In Blanket Stories, she credits the Iroquois story of The Three Sisters, as one of the many sources of inspiration for this piece. The Three Sisters discusses the themes of home, community, and sharing. The three sisters, Corn, Beans, and Squash, spent their days in a field when, one day, they were visited by a young native boy. Curious about the boy, the sisters followed him home, one after the other. Discovering the warmth and comfort of the boy’s home—and because it was getting colder by the day—the sisters decided to stay and keep the dinner pot full for the boy and his family. The stack of blankets represents how the sisters rely on each other throughout the season to feed our people, highlighting the importance of food, family, and oral history within Indigenous heritage.

Living and working in the Northwest, Watt has stacked blankets so that they rise from floor to ceiling, reminiscent of the totems, or welcome figures, seen in this area of the United States. By visually and thematically connecting two vibrant Indigenous cultures from opposite coasts, Watt welcomes viewers and tells of how we are all connected through the stories that we share. Indigenous people look to the past for guidance from our ancestors, while also thinking towards future generations. These blanket stacks illustrate the histories that they hold, while also demonstrating the comfort and security that they have left to offer.

Every blanket has a story. What is yours?

– Kari Karsten, Emerging Museum Professional Curatorial Intern

Image: Blanket Stories: Three Sisters, Four Pelts, Sky Woman, Cousin Rose, and All My Relations, 2007, Marie Watt, Wool blankets, satin binding, with salvaged industrial yellow cedar timber base, 150 x 40 x 40 in., General Acquisition Fund, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2007.41 © Marie Watt.

Docents Defined: David Turner

Do you love art and can’t wait to spend loads of time in the Seattle Asian Art Museum when it reopens? We’ve got the volunteer position for you! SAM is recruiting new docents to start training to lead tours of the newly installed galleries and you have until May 31 to apply.

Our docents have a wide range of interests and background. Take David, for instance—he started volunteering to lead tours to get more involved in the arts community and his favorite artwork in the museum changes with every tour! Want to learn more about being a docent? Join SAM staff and current docents at our Docent Open House on May 16, 2019 from 6–7 pm

SAM: Tell us about yourself. Why did you decide to become a docent?

David: It was a way for me to get to be connected with the community when I came to Seattle.

What’s the best part about being leading school tours?

The exposure to the art and interacting with kids. One visit to a museum is never enough to get to understand or enjoy something. My joy in being in the museum comes from close contact with art over a period of time. It’s more meaningful when I can try to engage a group of kids or even adults in responding to an artwork. It’s a challenge, but it’s really a pleasure.

What’s your favorite work of art at SAM?

That changes every tour. I tell every group I take into the galleries, “I’m going to take you to see my favorite piece.” I want to express to kids, and everyone else on my tours, that I have regard for the work. Yesterday, my favorite piece was Market Scene by Paul Bril.

What’s your most memorable touring experience?

The emotional response to Marie Watt’s Blanket Stories: Three Sisters, Four Pelts, Sky Woman, Cousin Rose, and All My Relations in the Northwest Coast galleries. My take on it has always been that every blanket has a story and Blanket Stories encapsulates the stories of the people who created the materials in the piece. I ask viewers if they have a blanket story and it’s always very moving. It’s a very meaningful moment when they see it’s not just about a blanket, but that this is a collection of human beings’ lives.

What advice do you have for people interested in the docent program?

Be yourself. That’s it! A mistake that’s easy to make is to think that there’s a canned presentation that you’re going to give. Those are not the most interesting tours by any means. When docents have internalized a piece, it makes a big difference in the way the audience that you’re speaking to reacts.

– Yaoyao Liu, Seattle Asian Art Museum Educator

Muse/News: Art springs eternal, dancing in bronze, and a 13/10 museum

SAM News

Spring arts previews blossom! The annual New York Times special Museums section is out; Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer is featured in the recommended exhibitions listings.

The show is also highlighted in the visual arts listings—along with six other SAM shows—of The Stranger’s Arts & Performance Quarterly; head to the last page for their recurring feature, “Anatomy Of,” this time offering “A Guided Tour of a Punching Bag That an Indigenous Sculptor Turned into Art.”

And be sure to grab a copy of this week’s Real Change, with American History (JB) in all its glory on the cover and Lisa Edge’s review inside, in which she calls the show “mesmeric from start to finish.”

Watch Tasia Endo, SAM’s Manager of Interpretive Technology, take part in the recent conversation, “Tech Has Changed Seattle. Now What?”

Local News

KUOW’s Marcie Sillman answers the question: What’s the story behind those bronze dance steps on Capitol Hill?

Crosscut’s Brangien Davis on Degenerate Art Ensemble’s “most personal performance yet,” which played last week at Erickson Theatre.

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig previews Regeneración | Rebirth at Vermillion Art Gallery, the first in a series of three shows done in conjunction with yəhaw̓.

“A tribute to spring—flowers in bloom, longer days, warmth—and all that it represents: regeneration, rebirth and renewal.”

Inter/National News

Also of note in the New York Times Museums section: Alex V. Cipolle’s look at Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts (C.S.I.A), the only professional print house on an Indian reservation in the United States. Rick Bartow, Marie Watt, Jeffrey Gibson, and Wendy Red Star have all been residents of its program, and 2018 Betty Bowen Award-winner Natalie Ball is a resident this year.

And here’s Robin Pogrebin on different ways that institutions are handling overcrowded collections; take the quiz to see if you can make tough choices on artworks, as did the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Artnet’s Naomi Rea on how “experience” as a marketing buzzword has infiltrated the museum world.

If “legacy cultural organizations” want to grow their audiences, they need to adapt and transform to meet their needs. “If arts organizations can leverage that new understanding in a way authentic to them and on-mission and without abandoning their core purpose,” she says, “all audiences benefit.”

And Finally

It’s a good museum, Brent.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Installation view Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer at Seattle Art Museum, 2019, photo: Natali Wiseman

Object of the Week: Blanket Stories: Three Sisters, Four Pelts, Sky Woman, Cousin Rose, and All My Relations

Why do we say stories are woven?

They are built from many parts that only convey our meaning when arranged just so. A story is like a blanket—another woven object—with its threads arranged precisely for bodily comfort and visual delight. In Blanket Stories: Three Sisters, Four Pelts, Sky Woman, Cousin Rose, and All My Relations, artist Marie Watt has woven together the stories of a wide range of people in an impressive, inviting stack of blankets. For Watt, a daughter of the Turtle Clan of the Seneca Nation, Native culture provides a source of inspiration for community-focused works like this one.

Blankets strike emotional chords within many of us. For most everyone, the sight of a blanket brings on the thought of a story, and then its telling. On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, here’s a sampling of some visitor revelations inspired by Marie Watt’s Blanket Stories:

“The rough wool blankets remind me of bundling up on sea voyages to ward off the bitter, crisp chill of the Baltic Sea. It was the blanket that could save your life and keep you from hyperthermia for an extra 30 minutes in hopes of rescue. For me however, it brought me closer to my ancestry of fisherman clans and an ocean women that sometimes feels so far away for an immigrant raised on foreign shore. —CVF”

“When I see these blankets it fills my mind with memories of my mother and grandmother. Making forts with the blankets and being sick and feeling them against my face. —Mariel Grumby, 2007”

“One of the wool blankets reminds me of an old army blanket belonging to my dad. I loved the weight of the blanket, despite its scratchy surface. It provided warmth and smiles and a sense of security—all the wonderful characteristics of my father. —J. Mainer, 10-8-2007”

“When I was about 7 or 8 years old, I lost my baby blanket on a family vacation to Disneyland. It remains on of the most traumatic experiences of my childhood. –KB”

“When I see this stack of blankets, I have an overwhelming compulsion to charge it, like a bull to a matador. I imagine that when I make contact I will scream, ‘Yeeeeeaarrrgh!’ and throw my arms upward like the wings of a triumphant war bird, flinging blankets in all directions and giving the surrounding land a fuzzy-warm feeling. Sincerely, The Unknown Guard”

“I live in New York City, and one day found a homeless woman in front of my house…with nothing to protect her from the elements. I went upstairs and got a blanket off my bed and gave it to her. I sometimes wonder what ever happened to that blanket. I loved it.”

“Every blanket looks important. I’d like to unfold each one and snuggle with it a little. I have my blankie, which was given to me at birth, by my parents 22 years ago. Recently, my grandma asked me how much longer I expect to carry it around with me. Without hesitation, I answered ‘forever.’ —CM & TM”

Jeffrey Carlson, SAM Collections Coordinator

IMAGE: Blanket Stories: Three Sisters, Four Pelts, Sky Woman, Cousin Rose, and All My Relations, 2007, Marie Watt, American, born 1967, wool blankets, satin binding, with salvaged industrial yellow cedar timber base, 150 x 40 x 40 in. Seattle Art Museum, General Acquisition Fund, in honor of the Seattle Art Museum © Marie Watt.
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