Native Arts & Cultures Foundation (NACF) is excited to partner with Converge 45 to present Chords to Other Chords (Relative), a monumental neon sculpture by Portland-based, Seneca Nation artist Marie Watt.

Chords to Other Chords (Relative) (2023) is first and foremost an affirmation of the land and the Indigenous people who are ephemeral monuments to this territory. It is a way of seeing ourselves in public places that have ties to our ancestors and to future generations.

As Joy Harjo writes, “We are chords/to other chords to other chords, if we’re lucky, to melody.” For Watt her monumental neon embodies “our relatedness, reverberating and expanding beyond the individual to empower and embrace the many. This work builds upon Seneca oral history traditions and the history of call and response. Conversations are intended to call back in time to our ancestors and also forward to future generations, based on the belief that our present moment is inextricably tethered to the communities of past and future.”

The Haudenosaunee call the land now known as North America “Turtle Island.” It is a name derived from the Haudenosaunee creation story that speaks of Skywoman’s descent from Skyworld and the aid of the animals in her safe landing. In recognition of the multitude of Indigenous origin stories and place names, this sign proclaims not just “Turtle Island” but “Turtle Island And.”

According to Watt, “Turtle Island is the land that we’re on, it’s the water that runs underneath our feet, it’s the air we breathe, the molecules that make up our bodies… so the phrase “chords to other chords” makes me think of this deep connectedness that travels through time.” As a billboard-sized work, Chords to Other Chords (Relative) breaks many barriers to experiencing art. It is not siloed in an inaccessible space, but exists in a space for all to see and experience, regardless of factors such as demographics, field of work and relationship to art and the environment. The audience is broad and the interactions are broader.

The exhibit will open for visitors Fridays from 4pm to 7pm through October 13th.


August 25 – October 15, 2023

4pm – 7pm Fridays

Artist Marie Watt (Seneca) was awarded a 2011 NACF Artist Fellowship in Visual Arts.
Artist Marie Watt (Seneca) was awarded a 2011 NACF Artist Fellowship in Visual Arts.
Picture of artist Marie Watt in front of some of her work

About Marie Watt: Marie Watt is an American artist and citizen of the Seneca Nation with German-Scot ancestry. Her interdisciplinary work draws from history, biography, Iroquois protofeminism, and Indigenous teachings. Through collaborative actions she instigates multigenerational and cross-disciplinary conversations that might 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 and the Institute of American Indian Arts; and in 2016 she was awarded an honorary doctorate from Willamette University. She 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.

Selected collections include the Seattle Art Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Yale University Art Gallery, Crystal Bridges Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 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. Marie Watt is represented by PDX Contemporary Art in Portland, Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco and Marc Straus Gallery in New York.

Chords to other Chords is a partnership between Native Arts and Cultures Foundation and Converge 45