Date of this Version
Published in Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings, Washington, DC, September 18- September 22, 2012.
In large wall tapestries, towering blanket stacks, small stitched samplers, and complex installations, Marie Watt explores the personal and collective memories embodied in wool blankets. The artist employs old blankets that are worn with use, faded in color, and stretched out of shape to evoke memories of the many ways blankets comfort and protect us from birth until death. Forget-Me-Not: Mothers and Sons (2008) is an installation piece conceived in response to Watt's dissatisfaction with media coverage of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and the young lives lost in combat. Desiring to personalize and humanize the stories of soldiers killed in the wars, she created a series of small, hand-stitched memorial portraits. In the installation, the cameo-like portraits hang from a web made from reclaimed wool blankets that surrounds and envelopes the viewer. An accompanying, more abstract piece titled Blossom, comprised of hundreds of handmade fabric blooms and a large basalt stone, memorializes the civilian lives lost in the wars. This paper examines Watt's use of "reclaimed" wool blankets to create a very different kind of war memorial, one that employs color, texture, and story to stir memory and emotion, that builds a sense of community and creates an intimate space for contemplation and remembrance. Watt draws inspiration from Joseph Beuys's concept of social sculpture, his interest in the creative potential of all people, and his belief that art can and should have a role in shaping society and the world.