Print Center New York presents “Storywork: The Prints of Marie Watt, from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation,” the artist’s first traveling retrospective and the first to reflect on the role of printmaking in her ambitious interdisciplinary work. On view in the Jordan Schnitzer Gallery, the exhibition considers Watt’s printmaking both as a process and a philosophy—a medium that has had a nuanced and enduring impact on her career since 1996.
Featuring over 60 works, it presents Watt’s etchings, lithographs, and woodcuts alongside a selection of her monumentally-scaled sculptures and textile works. The exhibition debuts January 25th and runs through May 18th, 2024.
Watt (b. 1967, works in Portland, OR) is a member of the Seneca Nation (one of six that comprise the Haudenosaunee Confederacy) with German-Scot ancestry. Her work is a site of twinned language between the present and the past, drawing from Native and non-Native traditions such as Greco-Roman myth, pop culture, and Indigenous oral narratives.
She is known, increasingly, for assembling material drawn from community sewing circle events or open calls, and for her central use of reclaimed textiles as humble, everyday materials that carry intimate meanings and memories. This is exemplified by Watt’s celebrated Blanket Stories sculptures, such as Blanket Stories: Great Grandmother, Pandemic, Daybreak (2021), a column made of folded, stacked blankets drawn from a call to the public and pinned with tags documenting the blankets’ stories.
Over the course of her career, Watt has also told stories through prints, collaborating with master printers at Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts (on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Pendleton, OR), Mullowney Printing Company (Portland, OR), Sitka Center for Art and Ecology (Otis, OR), and Tamarind Institute (Albuquerque, NM). “Storywork” features prints that show how Watt has explored material, process, and concept through these collaborations, which date back to the early 2000s.
First introduced to printmaking as a student at Willamette University, Watt enrolled in printmaking classes while attending the Institute of American Indian Arts, where she studied under the artist and Indigenous activist Jean LaMarr. Since completing her MFA in Painting and Printmaking at Yale in 1996, Watt has returned to printmaking repeatedly: she has used a sewing roulette wheel to puncture woodblocks (Door, 2005), run collaged and sewn fabric through a press to capture the trace of an object (Artifact, 2014 and Companion Species [Malleable/Brittle], 2021), drawn intricately woven threads (Blanket Relative, 2002), and developed a visual language that moves fluidly between her print and non-print works.
The collaborative nature of the printmaking process aligns with Watt’s desire to build communities through art and storytelling. Alongside showcasing her printmaking collaborations, the exhibition also explores the artist’s evolving practice of convening sewing and printing circles.
To make the newest, most ambitious prints in the exhibition, such as Companion Species (Rock Creek, Ancestor, What’s Going On) (2021), Watt invited students, friends, and community members to participate in printing circles, in which they each made small, text-based plates and pressure prints. Watt then borrowed these plates and—alongside the team at Mullowney Printing Company—pulled prints from them, later collaging the prints together to generate one large, tapestry-like piece. 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.
The exhibition draws from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his Family Foundation, which has supported Watt’s work since the beginning of her career.
“When I first saw Marie Watt’s art 15 years ago, I was taken, as I am now, with the way she examines contemporary life in America through the lens of her Seneca heritage,” Schnitzer said. “She draws from a well of histories, personal narratives, and Indigenous teachings to transform materials. When we are in the presence of her work, we smile, we frown, we contemplate our present moment and the echoes of ancestral legacies in a way that only Marie Watt is able to provoke.”
About Marie Watt
Marie Watt’s interdisciplinary work draws from history, biography, Haudenosaunee protofeminism, and Indigenous teachings; in it, she explores the intersection of history, community, and storytelling. Through collaborative actions, she instigates multigenerational and cross-disciplinary conversations that create a lens and conversation for understanding connectedness to place, one another, and the universe.
Watt holds an MFA in painting and printmaking from Yale University; she also has degrees from Willamette University—where she was awarded an honorary doctorate in 2016—and the Institute of American Indian Arts.
She has attended residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and the Vermont Studio Center, and has received fellowships from Anonymous Was a Woman, the Joan Mitchell Foundation, the Harpo Foundation, The Ford Family Foundation, and the Native Arts and Culture Foundation, among others.
Selected collections include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Seattle Art Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Yale University Art Gallery, the Crystal Bridges Museum, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian and Renwick Gallery, the Tacoma Art Museum, the Denver Art Museum, and the Portland Art Museum.
She is represented by PDX Contemporary Art in Portland, Oregon; Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco, California; and Marc Straus Gallery in New York, New York.
About the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation
At age 14, Jordan D. Schnitzer bought his first work of art from his mother’s Portland, Oregon contemporary art gallery, evolving into a lifelong avocation as a collector. He began collecting contemporary prints and multiples in earnest in 1988. Today, the collection has become one of the most important post-war and contemporary collections in all mediums, exceeding 20,000 objects and has grown to be the country’s largest private collection of prints and multiples.
He generously lends work from his collection to qualified institutions with no additional fees. The Foundation has organized over 180 exhibitions and has had art exhibited at over 160 museums.
Schnitzer is also President of Schnitzer Properties, a privately owned real estate investment company based in Portland, owning and managing office, multi-tenant industrial, multi-family and retail properties in six western states.
The Foundation was established in 1997 as a non-profit organization to manage the collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation.
The Foundation publishes scholarly brochures, exhibition catalogues, and catalogues raisonnés in conjunction with exhibitions drawn from the collections.
About Print Center New York
Print Center New York champions printmaking as an art form that drives invention, collaboration, and access, and plays a vital role in society. Through exhibitions, public programs, education, and artistic development, Print Center New York is a hub of exploration and inquiry for all those engaged with and new to prints.
Having opened a new, ground floor space at 535 West 24th Street in October 2022, designed by architect Markus Dochantschi of studioMDA, Print Center New York has significantly expanded public access and programming capacity.
Print Center New York is open to the public and located at 535 West 24th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues.
Hours during the fall are Tuesday–Saturday, 11am–6pm.
Admission is free.