Marie Watt (Seneca) embraces community and connectedness in her monumental textile, Companion Species (Speech Bubble). The uniquely stitched words reflect the hands of the many contributors to her sewing circles; words such as we , mother , and ancestor , are not used solely to indicate familial relationships, but to extend to all humans, and in Iroquois teaching, to animals and land as well. This exhibition places artwork from Native and non-Native artists (including works from the Chazen’s permanent collection) in dialogue with Watt’s work to examine these connections.
Companion Species is organized into three thematic sections:
Relationships • Native and non-Native artists across time have depicted animals, used animal materials, and reinforced the value of relationships between various species, in their artworks. The boundaries between humans, animals, and the land are often blurred. In our human relationships, we sometimes look to animals to model reciprocity and understanding.
Storytelling • Storytelling helps humans make sense of the world and build lasting, and often collective memories. Artists use stories as inspiration for artmaking and visual storytelling, sometimes to convey moral or personal lessons. Humans may understand or relate better to stories where animals and nature represent more abstract concepts.
Community • The definition of community expands beyond a group of people to include animals, plants, and the land. Artists depict and embrace collective activities, such as sewing circles, dancing, or hunting, to reinforce that we are all connected and related. New communities are formed when cross-cultural understanding is fostered.
Companion Species is organized by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in collaboration with the Museum of Native American History, Bentonville, Arkansas.
Marie Watt (Seneca b. 1967), Companion Species (Speech Bubble), 2019, reclaimed wool blankets, embroidery ﬂoss, and thread, 136 × 198 in., Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas , 2019.30, © Marie Watt / Licensed by PDX Contemporary Art, Portland, OR