Project: Marie Watt: Lodge, for Hallie Ford Museum of Art

Hallie Ford Museum of Art
Marie Watt: Lodge

A mid-career survey for a contemporary Native American artist

Lodge is a survey, covering the American/Haudenosaunee artist Marie Watt’s work from 1995 to the present. It was commissioned by the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem, Oregon for an exhibition of the same name held in the spring of 2012, moving to the Tacoma Museum of Art in the summer of that year.


Front cover

Although Lodge is a career survey, the exhibition paid particular attention to the artist’s installation work. The title refers to a communal space where stories can be shared. Ms. Watt’s work is closely interested in storytelling – both formal (as in the Native legends that shaped her youth) and informal (gossip swapped over a common workspace) – and in how story shapes and defines us, even in small, everyday ways.

Ms. Watt’s multimedia installation Engine anchored the exhibition – and is in fact a freestanding lodge-like space – so it made sense to open the book with it. We abstracted the image, however, into cool grays to keep it from giving away too much too soon. We wanted the book to be framed sensually, but with a sense of remove.



Inside front cover and half-title

The book is sewn and limp-bound in wraps, with extended flaps to provide a little more heft to the cover. We used the flaps to present information that would have otherwise chewed up interior pages: here, a brief overview and biography.

The artist’s work is colorful, if a bit muted (she works largely in secondhand wool blankets, and derives her color choices in other media from these as well). We devised a system of tinted grays to move the reader in and out of the work: here, the middle gray of the cover transitions to a darker, cooler gray, and then into the full-color half-title, featuring a detail from a woodcut of Ms. Watt’s that bears the same title as the book.



Section divider / cæsura

The first divider, showing tighter exterior detail of Engine, and the book’s thematic introduction. Derived from the custodial language of grays noted above, these are places where the author (or artist, in quotation) discusses the work in the abstract, examining its conceptual underpinnings without referring to any one piece, and also supplying a tonal break for the reader. For a relatively slim volume, Lodge packs in a lot of work, and these pages are crucial to maintaining a humane pace.



Full title

The humped roof of Engine, shown in natural color, as we move into the meat of the book. Here, we’ve reprised the display type from the cover to underscore the transition. Note caption at left (and, for that matter, on previous pages). Although different parts of the book have different ceremonial duties, it remains a catalogue, and every page does a catalogue’s work.



Introductory notes

Museum director’s preface, showing the basic layout of the book: an asymmetric arrangement, placing essay-type material to the right, with caption and notes living in a narrower column at left. Type is set ragged-right, both to maintain even wordspacing and because the organic right edge harmonizes with the organic nature of the artist’s work.




Précis explaining Ms. Watt’s approach to artmaking, with a portrait showing her at work. Throughout the book, only her work is shown in natural color. Pages and images given over to documentary or custodial duties are rendered in monochrome, to provide separation.



Engine, exterior

Engine, a freestanding cave rendered in felt, was the centerpiece of the exhibition, and receives the lion’s share of the attention in the book’s early pages; various views of its exterior are presented in cinematographic sequence. Here, the full exterior…



Engine, interior

…and a view looking out its entry…



Engine, interior

…and so inside. The full-bleed approach of the previous page has now been replaced by museum borders, to reinforce the change in perspective.



Chapter opening

Chapter opening, showing large artwork reproduction with a smaller contextual illustration. The essay, by curator Rebecca J. Dobkins, quotes extensively from Ms. Watt’s writing, and is presented in two colors: gray for the essay’s voice, and black for Ms. Watt’s. This allowed us to avoid excessive indenting and/or italicizing and preserved the back-and-forth feel of an interview. This early page included the artist’s name as the source; once this relationship was introduced, the labeling was dropped.



Essay with plates

We were not precious about showing the art. The picture window should be enough to draw the eye, and the work does not need to be presented in vitrine; in fact, there is value in setting it alongside documentary and supplemental images. Similarly, we took great care in pacing the book so the illustrations occur at roughly the same time they’re being discussed in the text. This is difficult, but crucial to the book as a curatorial experience. The reader shouldn’t have to flip back and forth between text and plates. And if there is something that strikes her about an illustration, she shouldn’t have to hunt for the part of the essay that discusses it.



Small multiples

Ms. Watt’s samplers – or small studies – are an integral part of her process, though were not represented in the exhibition. We felt that they were important, however, and set up a spread showing eighteen of them in sequence with an extended caption. The warm background was used elsewhere in the book to draw together groups of similar work.



Chapter opening

The book contains much more work than did the exhibition; space is cheaper in publication, and in fact the book is both a companion to the show and an experience unto itself. This detail is taken from a study from the artist’s personal collection that will likely never be shown, but was the seed of an entire body of work.



Essay with crossover

Pages showing a crossover treatment. Using a sewn binding – which is more flexible and opens flatter than a glued one – means the designer need not fear the crossover as much; we were still careful to make sure the gutter fell gracefully.



Image spread

Typical two-page image treatment with museum borders. Normally, we’re great fans of the bleed – engaging the edge of the page can be useful for moving the eye where you want it, and full-bleed spreads can be powerful if you have a simple image. Ms. Watt’s work has a lot going on, however, and the borders, narrow as they are, give the eye a point of contrast and rest.



Section divider

Another section divider – and one we particularly liked – here introducing the artist’s most current work.



Text and context

Pages showing the resin iteration of Ms. Watt’s sculpture Cradle with examples of earlier work which led to it. The work in Lodge is presented in loose chronology, but by using the essay as our cue, we were able to bounce around a bit, showing work from different periods on one page, so long as it served the text.



Custodial pages

The back of the book is also illustrated. No part of a book is unimportant. If it’s important enough to set in type, then it’s important enough to read. If it’s important enough to read, you have to give someone reason to find it, and take care that the experience is as pleasant as the rest of the book.



Ceremony and sense

As we’ve written elsewhere, we believe in the full ceremony of the book: half-title, full-title, dedication, etc. But you have to know when to pick your spots. Lodge is a compact book, and so in the name of showing more content, we were obliged to find other places for the ceremonial stuff. The last page is, of course, a fine place for acknowledgements. But we were also able to move the administrative content and copyright information to the back flap, which actually makes a great deal of sense.

7.25 × 10.375 in.
6-color offset lithography; 112pp, sewn in wraps
Lexicon No. 2 and National
Rebecca J. Dobkins
Printing Coordination
Print Vision
Peter Jennings
Patrik Bolecek