Marie Watt (b. 1967) is a Seneca artist whose bold, multi-sensory visual language celebrates and fosters community connections. Inviting people to explore and expand the boundaries of mutual relationships is an essential part of Watt’s aesthetic vocabulary. As a citizen of the Seneca Nation and a woman with German-Scot ancestry, her perspective has been shaped by values of connectivity and sharing.


Drawing from history, biography, Iroquois protofeminism, and Indigenous teachings, Watt mobilizes her art practice as a form of visual and experiential storytelling. She frequently invites collaborators into her creative process, either as literal participants in the art making process or as contributors of materials or narratives that are then integrated into the work. Watt embraces and centers the stories embedded within those materials and narratives. Examples include her use of donated and vintage blankets, which frequently bear the scars of their histories in the form of flaws such as rips, repairs, or faded colors. Such markings connect Watt to the people who once used them, and to the moments of their lives that read like visual echoes stored within the objects.


Watt’s newest series of works mobilizes jingle cones, a material historically made from the circular tin lids of tobacco cans that have become an iconic element of jingle dress, a genre of clothing used in traditional Indigenous jingle dance. Though their invention and use as fashion adornments dates at least to the late 1800s, jingle cones made from mass-produced, tin tobacco lids became an iconic element of Indigenous dance traditions during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918.


“One version of the story is that a member of the Ojibwa nation had a sick granddaughter,” recalls Watt. “They had this dream in which they were instructed to attach tin jingles to a dress and have women dance around this sick child while wearing the dress. The idea was that the sound would be healing. It’s assumed the medicine worked, because the dance was shared with other tribal communities.”


By setting up situations through which stories can be exchanged, shared, amplified, and archived, Watt’s sculptures, installations, and collaborative projects exist not only as aesthetic phenomena but also as loci for collective experiences, and as physical records of the people and communities connected through the work.


Watt earned her MFA from Yale and attended the Institute of American Indian Arts with a focus on museum studies and studio arts. Her work has recently been featured in solo exhibitions at the Denver Art Museum in Colorado and Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, among many others, and group exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Seattle Art Museum, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA, among many others. Watt’s work is included in the permanent collections of more than 80 museums and public institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, CA; Buffalo AKG Art Museum, Buffalo, NY; and Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD.