A not-so-typical art exhibit was being installed last week at Tacoma Art Museum that had TAM staffer Kim Disney rolling on a stack of blankets. Disney was one of several staffers who have been installing Marie Watt: Lodge in the museums main gallery for two weeks. Marie Watt is a Portland-based mixed media artist. Her show opens Saturday and runs through Oct. 7.
Organized by the Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University in Salem, Ore., the show reflects Watts Native American heritage, and her interest in blankets and storytelling. While the blanket stack harks back to the past, another piece at the opposite corner of the gallery takes a decidedly futuristic tack. The centerpiece of the show is a construction called Engine. Though it reflects Watts Seneca tribal heritage, her inspiration for the wooden-framed and fiber-covered wikiup-like building is Princess Leias hologram scene in Star Wars.
The inside of the structure is filled with felt stalagmites and stalactites. On the walls are projected holographic images of Puget Sound Native American storytellers: Elaine Grinnell (Jamestown SKlallam and Lummi), Johnny Moses (Tulalip) and Roger Fernandes (Lower Elwha Klallam). Fernandes also appears as a hologram at Tillicum Village, making him perhaps Washingtons most viewed holographic storyteller. But the blankets have their own stories to tell. Disneys job was to occasionally roll on the stack to work out kinks in the donated blankets almost 1,000 of them which will be stacked about 8 feet high for the exhibit. The best part: Visitors can feel the blankets and discover their histories.
Tags attached to each blanket tell the story of who owned them and why they were donated. Some date back to World War I or the Holocaust. Others are from a long-ago summer camp or a cherished mother.
This blanket was on my mothers bed forever til she passed away, one tag reads. Another tag, attached to a green army blanket reads, Leslie Hudson was my grandfather for whom I was named. He served in WWI as an Army Calvary officer in France. His horse was shot out from under him and (he) was dragged to safety in a trench by an Australian.
While Watt had yet to arrive at the museum last week, her father, Dave Watt, was on hand, watching the staff create the stack of blankets.
Everybodys got a story about a blanket, Watt said as Disney jumped on the pile to begin another series of rolls.