Marie Watt

Seneca Nation

AWARDEE:  Marie Watt
LOCATION: Portland, Oregon
AWARD: 2023 SHIFT – Transformative Change and Indigenous Arts
Forge Project

Marie Watt is an interdisciplinary artist whose work includes textiles, sculptures, prints, and site-specific installations, all of which are deeply rooted in community engagement and collaboration. Her interdisciplinary work draws from history, biography, Iroquois proto-feminism, 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 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 and has degrees from Willamette University and the Institute of American Indian Arts. In 2016, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from Willamette University. She has attended residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and the Vermont Studio Center; and has received numerous fellowships and awards from institutions such as Anonymous Was a Woman, the Joan Mitchell Foundation, the Harpo Foundation, and The Ford Family Foundation. Her work is found in museum collections across the United States, and she is represented by PDX Contemporary Art in Portland, Oregon; Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco, California; and Marc Straus Gallery in New York City, New York.

When you say TURTLE ISLAND, even if you don’t know what it means, it affirms an important story – it resets the way we walk, wander, swim, and build shelters. By recognizing a place name that precedes colonial names, it is a step toward acknowledging historical trauma and a legacy of extraction and displacement.”

― Marie Watt (Seneca Nation)


Marie Watt’s SHIFT Project, Chords to Other Chords is a series of three site-responsive neon sculptures that aim to amplify stories and conversations about land, stewardship, and place. The phrase “TURTLE ISLAND” is “stitched” in light and sited with public institutions in and around Watt’s ancestral homelands in New York. Co-produced with lead partner Forge Project, events will feature poets, artists, scholars, and other thought leaders in conversation with the themes of Turtle Island.


Forge Project is a Native-led organization whose mandate is to cultivate and advance Indigenous leadership in arts and culture. Located on the ancestral homelands of the Moh-He-Con-Nuck, Forge is situated in two buildings designed by the renowned artist and activist Ai Weiwei on a 38-acre campus in the Mahicannituck (Hudson River) valley. Forge Project is a model for Native cultural self-determination and leadership, fusing traditional and contemporary knowledge and practices to build community, public education, and collective action.

Marie Watt, Companion Species (First and Last), 2023
Medium: Reclaimed satin bindings, industrial felt, tin jingles, cotton twill tape, thread. Dimensions: 169.5" L x 50.5" H. Photographer credit: Kevin McConnell.
Marie Watt, Companion Species (Speech Bubble), 2019
Medium: Reclaimed wool blankets, embroidery floss, thread. Dimensions: 198.5" L x 136.6" H. Photographer credit: Kevin McConnell.