November 21, 2020 - May 24, 2021
Companion Species is a new focus exhibition and collaborative project that takes inspiration from the recent Crystal Bridges acquisition, Companion Species (Speech Bubble) by Marie Watt (Seneca). In the spirit of Watt, who embraces community and connectedness at the heart of her artwork, the exhibition is organized in collaboration with the Museum of Native American History (MONAH) in Bentonville, and will be presented across the two museum sites.
Watt’s monumental textile was created through community sewing circles across Northwest Arkansas and in Portland, Oregon and Honolulu, Hawaii in 2018 and 2019. Words such as neighbor, companion, hate, mother, and brother are rendered in unique stitches reflecting the hands of the many contributors of the sewing circles. The words draw attention to relatedness, and also come from the Marvin Gaye song “What’s Going On,” penned by Gaye, Renaldo Benson and Al Cleveland in 1969 in response to racial violence. In both cases, familial terms like “mother” and “brother” are not used solely to indicate biological awareness, but to extend to all humans, and in Iroquois teaching, to animals and the environment as well.
In the spirit of interconnections and cross-cultural exchange, artwork by Native and non-Native artists from across time and media will be shown in dialogue with Watt’s Companion Species. Art by Louise Bourgeois, Kristen Cliffel, Laurel Roth Hope, Joseph Stella, William Holbrook Beard, and recent acquisitions by artists Harry Fonseca, Ma Pe Wi, Woody Crumbo and more from the Bruce Hartman collection will be featured with artworks from MONAH. At MONAH, Crystal Bridges artworks will be featured in conversation with their collection. Together, the art tells stories and celebrates the web of relationships between humans, animals, and nature.
After its run at Crystal Bridges, this focus exhibition will travel to other museums with support from Art Bridges.
Marybeth and Micky Mayfield
Marie Watt (Seneca, born 1967), Companion Species (Speech Bubble), 2019, reclaimed wool blankets, embroidery floss, and thread, 136 5/8 in. × 198 1/2 in. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2019.30