National Gallery of Canada seeks nationwide participation in creating artwork

Ottawa - December 4, 2012

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Give your blanket, share your story, and be part of artist Marie Watt's Blanket Stories installation

The National Gallery of Canada (NGC) invites the public to help create a work of art by donating a wool or natural fibre blanket with a story to tell to artist Marie Watt. The blankets will be part of the artist’s ambitious installation Blanket Stories: Seven Generations, Adawe, and Hearth, which will be shown at the NGC next year, as part of the summer exhibition Sakahàn: First Quinquennial of New Indigenous Art.

The blankets will be assembled into seven columns, reflecting the Indigenous teachings of seven generations. These teachings call upon the community, leaders, and individuals to consider how their actions and decisions will affect not just the next generation, but also seven generations forward. The installation will be the most ambitious community collaboration by the artist and her tallest sculpture to date.

Blankets: bearing witness to important life events
Marie Watt's work is centred around the community, particularly in her use of wool blankets. This installation will highlight the rich history of commerce and trade in Ottawa. The word Ottawa comes from the Algonquian word adawe, which means “to trade.” Watt is interested in the way blankets and humble pieces of cloth are often markers for memories or stories. Blankets also have a very personal meaning for her: in the Seneca community, as in other Indigenous groups, blankets are given to honour those who are witnesses to important life events.

It is with this perspective that Marie Watt is asking people to share the stories of their blankets. Donors are invited to write their stories on tags, which will be attached to the blankets. The latter will then be folded and stacked, to create a skyward-reaching column and welcoming pole, greeting those who enter the NGC's Rotunda next summer.

How to participate
Blankets can be brought to the Gallery’s cloakroom at the Main Entrance. Donors will be asked to fill out a tag telling their story. Blankets may also be mailed to Blanket Stories Project, 380 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 9N4. Please note that blankets will not be returned. For more information, visit www.gallery.ca/sakahan

Get a signed artwork from the artist
In exchange for their blankets and stories, donors will each receive a small silkscreen print signed by the artist as a gesture of her appreciation.

About Marie Watt
Born in Seattle, Washington, in 1967, Marie Watt (Seneca) has produced lithographs and sculptures dealing with contemporary Native American topics, using a variety of materials, including fabric, alabaster, slate and corn husks. Her works can be found in both private and public collections, including those of the National Gallery of Canada and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, in Washington, D.C.

Sakahàn: First Quinquennial of New Indigenous Art
May 17 to September 2, 2013
Sakahàn, which means “to light a fire” in the Algonquin language, is the National Gallery of Canada’s first survey of recent Indigenous art. It will feature over 100 works by more than 70 renowned and emerging artists from around the world. Poetic, unexpected and challenging, these works of art document and interrogate distinct cultural, political, and social moments while making the link with parallel histories and the evolving relationship between the legacy of colonialism and the cause of cultural autonomy. Sakahàn, one of the NGC’s most ambitious exhibitions of contemporary art to date, extends to partnering sites in and outside of Ottawa and unveils impressive new works created specifically for this project. Organized by the National Gallery of Canada. Supported by the RBC Foundation and sponsored by CN.

About the National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada is home to the most important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian art. The Gallery also maintains Canada's premier collection of European Art from the 14th to the 21st centuries, as well as important works of American, Asian, and Indigenous Art, and renowned international collections of prints, drawings, and photographs. Created in 1880, the National Gallery of Canada has played a key role in Canadian culture for well over a century. Among its principal missions is to increase access to excellent works of art for all Canadians. To do so, it maintains an extensive touring art exhibition program. For more information: www.gallery.ca

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For more information, please contact:

Josée-Britanie Mallet
Senior Media and Public Relations Officer
National Gallery of Canada
613-990-6835
bmallet@gallery.ca