Skywalker/Skyscraper (Allegory)

Marie Watt

Measuring nineteen feet in width, Watt’s monumental wall-based work is comprised of reclaimed wool blankets, a material important to Indigenous populations in the Americas. Watt notes that blankets “are everyday objects that can carry extraordinary histories of use,” and that “in Indigenous communities” such as the Seneca Nation (of which Watts is a member), “blankets are given away to honor those who are witness to important life events.” Skywalker/Skyscraper, by extension, was inspired by Watt’s move to Brooklyn, and her discovery that the border of Cobble Hill and Gowanus (the locations of her home and studio, respectively) was “where Iroquois ironworkers and their families settled in the 1950s, when most of Manhattan's skyscrapers were being built.” Watt remarks that “these Iroquois were called ‘skywalkers’ due to their ability to work on the high steel without safety harnesses.” With her textile work, she invites viewers to consider our built and natural environments, as well as the impetus to constantly “reach” towards a mythic space that towers above us. According to Watt: “In the early 2010s, I moved from the Brooklyn neighborhood in Portland, Oregon, to the Brooklyn borough of New York City, where the conifers and totem poles of my Pacific Northwest upbringing were replaced by skyscrapers and scaffolds. One interesting coincidence in moving to Brooklyn is that the border of Cobble Hill (where I lived) and Gowanus (where I kept my studio), is where Iroquois ironworkers and their families settled in the 1950s, when most of Manhattan's skyscrapers were being built. These Iroquois were called "skywalkers" due to their ability to work on the high steel without safety harnesses. I am interested in the mythic and magical space that towers occupy. Skywalker/ Skyscraper meditates on the human preoccupation with “reaching” this space, and the long history of myths and stories that emanate from it. In 2013, I returned to Portland, Oregon, and remain enthralled by the space Skywalkers and Skyscrapers occupy, as well as how time is marked in this space by the rising and setting of sun and moon. Studies note that the circle is one of the first shapes that children draw. My mom says that circles expand and contract to include everyone, and it is in a circle where peoples voices are equal. I am interested in how circles connect us through space and time, while being weary of how circles used by corporate retailers. I am mindful that my circles intersect with others, ancient and modern. My circle is a shield, a flag and a talisman.”
Artist
Date of Birth
(b. 1967)
Date
2012
Medium
Reclaimed wool blankets, satin binding, thread
Dimensions
119 x 228 in. (302.26 x 579.12 cm.)
Accession #
2019.44
Credit Line
Museum Purchase
Category
Subject
On View
No
On Loan
No