From the Field

In Tacoma, Blankets Become Sculpture

January 5, 2015

Blanket Stories: Transportation Object, Generous Ones, Trek was recently installed along Pacific Avenue at Tacoma Art Museum to mark the November 15, 2014 grand opening of the museum’s new Haub Family Galleries. Artist Marie Watt and TAM collected more than 350 blankets from the community to create the sculpture. The museum also collected blankets for Tacoma’s Rescue Mission, carrying forward Watt’s concept of blankets as humble objects of comfort and significance.

Watt is a member of the Seneca Nation of Indians (one of the six tribes that comprise the Iroquois Confederacy), and fondly recalls that blankets are given away to mark important life events among her tribe. The title’s phrase “generous ones” refers to Tacoma’s first residents, the Puyallup people, and acknowledges the generosity of the Puyallup to all who visit. Along with each blanket a story tag was collected, and the stories have been compiled by Watt’s husband into a mobile-friendly website featuring photos of the blankets. Those who contributed blankets received a limited edition silkscreen print from Watt.

Two tall, curving stacks of blankets were transformed into a bronze sculpture at Washington’s Walla Walla Foundry and finished in a blue patina referencing water and sky. The towers cross each other, suggesting an “X,” which can represent a signature, a term of endearment, or a marker of a place or event. Two additional sculptures were also commissioned at the same time as Watt’s work, as part of TAM’s growing sculpture program. Julie Speidel’s Kinetic Repose has been installed at the new lower level entrance to the museum, and Scott Fife’s Explorers will be installed this spring.


Image of Blanket Stories: Transportation Object, Generous Ones, Trek courtesy of Tacoma Art Museum