Collaboration is an active agent in this work, not simply a means to an end.
Art is a verb, not a noun. Art is a practice, it’s an activity. It is an action.
Today, we place value on the noun, “art,” and not the verb, “to create.” Yet for much of history, art was an act of shared creation. For Marie Watt and Cannupa Hanska Luger, art is a social project where participants become invested and forge relationships. This experience facilitates learning, supports mental health, and develops new skills and ways of seeing. Their art comes from—and aims to produce—activism and social engagement.
As you walk through the exhibition, look beyond the art as a noun. Search for signs of different hands that created the artworks. Think about the people who sewed or formed beads, who shared stories. Think about how animals or the land collaborated to form materials. Ask yourself, when encountering each piece, “How am I part of this story”? The works are tangible but are, importantly, memories of collaborations that provide models for coming together and taking part in something greater than ourselves.
Based in Portland, Oregon, Marie Watt (b. 1967) is a citizen of the Seneca Nation whose practice explores multiple materials and the collaborative act of artmaking. Her artworks are held in collections across the United States and Canada, including the Denver Art Museum, the Portland Art Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and the National Gallery of Canada.
Watt has received public art commissions from the Tacoma Art Museum, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Denver Art Museum, and the United States Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, through the U.S. State Department’s Art in Embassies program.
Watt exhibits internationally and is represented in Portland, by PDX Contemporary Art, in Seattle, by Greg Kucera Gallery, and in New York by Marc Straus Gallery.
Cannupa Hanska Luger
Born on the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota, Cannupa Hanska Luger (b. 1979) is a New Mexico-based interdisciplinary artist and a citizen of the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation. His artworks address environmental justice and gender violence. From 2018 to 2020, Luger received fellowships and awards from such organizations as the Smithsonian Institution, the Center for Crafts, the Joan Mitchell Foundation, and the Museum of Arts and Design.
Luger has exhibited at Princeton University Art Museum, Art Mûr, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Orenda Gallery, and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, among others. Luger holds a BFA in studio arts from the Institute of American Indian Arts and is represented by Garth Greenan Gallery in New York.
Marie Watt (Seneca and German-Scots)
Blanket Stories: Confluence, Heirloom, and Tenth Mountain Division, 2013
Blankets and reclaimed cedar
Denver Art Museum: Native Arts acquisition funds, 2013.75.1-160. © Marie Watt
In various ways, Watt invites viewers to participate in her work and infuse it with individual and collective meaning. The blankets in this sculpture were donated mostly by members of Denver’s local community. Each tag contains a hand-written story that shares its significance.
Watt explains, "We are received in blankets, and we leave in blankets. The work… is inspired by the stories of those beginnings and endings, and the life in between."
Each/Other: Marie Watt and Cannupa Hanska Luger is organized by the Denver Art Museum. It is presented with the generous support of Vicki and Kent Logan, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Robert Lehman Foundation, the Adolph Coors Exhibition Endowment Fund, the donors to the Annual Fund Leadership Campaign, Stelo, Native Arts and Culture Foundation, Osage Nation Foundation, and the residents who support the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD). Promotional support is provided by 5280 Magazine and CBS4.