Marie Watt's Blanket Stories of Printmaking and Community at Print Center New York

Print Center New York Storywork: The Prints of Marie Watt

Installation view of Storywork: The Prints of Marie Watt, from the Collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his Family Foundation. Photo by Argenis Apolinario for Print Center New York.

Print Center New York is now showing Storywork: The Prints of Marie Watt, from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation. This is the artist's first traveling retrospective followed by shows at the Blanton Museum that opened this March and Carnegie Museum later this year; and it takes a deep dive into the importance of printmaking in her interdisciplinary work. The show features over 60 works, including etchings, lithographs, and woodcuts alongside a selection of her monumentally-scaled sculptures and textile works.

Blanket Stories

Among these works is Blanket Stories: Great Grandmother, Pandemic, Daybreak (2021), a column of stacked, folded blankets that came from a call to the public, and are pinned with tags documenting the blankets’ stories. This imposing sculpture emanates intimacy and familiarity, and leaves the viewer with a profound sense of connection to the personal lives of the people who contributed their blankets to the work. After reading multiple stories one quickly realizes the inherently communal nature of blankets. Each has its own personality, yet the story of one specific blanket is not the story of just one person, but rather the collective story of each person’s family and circle of loved ones.

Marie Watts Printing Cycles

Prints have also played a significant role in Watt’s career, and the collaborative nature of the printmaking process clearly speaks to Watt’s interest in building community through art. Watt has created a practice of convening sewing and printing circles. As part of the exhibition programmings, the artist and Print Center invite members of the community "printing circles", a workshop to make small pressure prints, led by Watts herself. Pressure printing is an image-making technique by which a flexible plate is placed behind the press sheet and run over a type-high, inked surface. This workshop is conceived as an informal extension of Marie's sewing and printing circles with family, friends, and community members that are integral to her artistic practice.

“This way of working illustrates Watt’s belief in the potential for activating print as a gesture of exchange and gratitude - a way to give and receive, call and respond, assert and listen - and as a custodian of personal, intergenerational, and Indigenous knowledge.”

Watt’s dedication to creating an intimate communal space through her work, in which viewers are invited to take part in the artist’s process, creates a truly powerful viewing experience that reverberates with warmth and meaning.

Storywork: The Prints of Marie Watt is on view through May 18, 2024.