How I Made This: Marie Watt and Cannupa Hanska Luger’s Crowdsourced She Wolf

Julia Travers, ArtNews, March 30, 2023

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Each/Other (2020–2021), a large, multicolored fabric sculpture of a she-wolf, is the first collaborative work by Cannupa Hanska Luger and Marie Watt. The pair invited members of the public to embroider messages onto bandanas and mail them to the artists, who hand-sewed them onto a canvas-covered metal wolf form. For these Indigenous creators, the crowdsourced she-wolf represents kinship among people and between species as well as a protective, maternal shelter.

 

Both Watt and Luger frequently orchestrate communal multimedia experiences. This sculpture draws on some of their preferred methods, including Watt’s inclination toward textiles and group sewing, and Luger’s experience with large-scale sculpture and social media outreach.

 

Portland-based Watt is an interdisciplinary artist and storyteller and a member of the Seneca Nation of Indians with German-Scot ancestry. Her works interweave Iroquois proto-feminism and other facets of Indigenous cultures with personal narratives and contemporary rituals. She investigates fabric as a connective medium through multigenerational sewing circles in which participants contribute stitched texts to large textiles. She also collects blankets from the public and builds them into towers and other forms as a means of exploring the ubiquitous object’s identity and commemorative use in some Native American cultures.

 

Watt has a particular interest in she-wolves and other canines. She says she reflects on them as “pets, mythological guides, and first teachers” as well as archetypal mothering figures. They are central to her exploration of the concept of companion species, a term she uses “broadly to include humans, animals, elements, and organisms in the natural environment. . . . I am interested in [what the world would] look like if we considered ourselves companion species,” she says. Her Companion Species series spans years and mediums, including fabric and crystal.

Watt and Luger were invited to partner up by John Lukavic, curator of native arts at the Denver Art Museum. He curated their first joint exhibition, also titled “Each/Other,” which debuted in Denver in 2021 and is on view at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, through May 8, 2022.

 

Before this endeavor, Watt and Luger had met only briefly. According to Watt, it was during a conversation with the two artists at a basement karaoke bar in New York City that Lukavic “got the idea for Cannupa and me—two artists with socially engaged practices—to collaborate.” The resulting exhibition features evidence of each artist’s previous community endeavors, including wall hangings and musical installations, along with their first co-creation, the Each/Other she-wolf.

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