With its urgent red palette and speech bubble shape, Honolulu Biennial artist Marie Watt’s textile work Companion Species (Speech Bubble) literally screams the words “Mother Mother”—the oversized letters stitched onto pieces of wool blankets—at you. The text is taken from the seminal Marvin Gaye song “What’s Going On,” penned by Gaye, Renaldo Benson and Al Cleveland in 1969 in response to racial violence.
Here, Marie Watt shares the significance of “mother” to her:
As she explains, “mother” means more than just someone who gives birth (although that’s a powerful experience to Watt too.) Being Seneca, she comes from a matrilineal tradition, so the word has an especially strong resonance for her. She’s interested in the characteristics of mothers and how everyone carries those in some way or another. “I’ve been thinking about mother not necessarily as a gendered word,” she said. She also thinks about the mother expletive and how we use it.
Most of all, the word mother makes her think of Mother Nature and how humans treat the planet. It’s a pressing message in our current political landscape.
See it: Companion Species (Speech Bubble) is on view through May 5 as part of the Honolulu Biennial 2019 in the Clare Boothe Luce Gallery of Contemporary Art.