Watie White was born in 1971 of itinerant cultural anthropologists in Palo Alto, CA. Eventually settling in rural Southern Illinois, he worked at the family business, Ancient Lifeways Institute, until attending Carleton College (BA, 1993). Degrees followed at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (BFA, 1999) and American University (MFA, 2003).
He currently works as a painter and printmaker based in Omaha, Nebraska. Before moving to Omaha in 2006, he was integrally involved in the Chicago Printmakers Collaborative, as well as an adjunct faculty member of DePaul University in Chicago, IL.
Watie’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including the Schopf Gallery in Chicago, IL, 5+5 in Brooklyn, NY and the DokHouse Gallery in Amsterdam. His work has also been featured in several publications, including New American Paintings, Almagre, OYEZ Review, Omaha Magazine and the Omaha World-Herald. He is a 2002 recipient of the Stanley G. Wolpoff Award from American University and a 2013 Nebraska Arts Council Merit Award winner.
When I am doing a portrait, the subject is ultimately my relationship with that person. Most of my work is in some way about me trying to understand my world, my place in it, and finding that in as vivid a way as possible.
In some of my more serious work, I’m trying to see something in a community that is not my community. Trying to see what feels like me in it and trying to communicate a sense of the community in a respectful way, but not in an overly reverent way. To make it real, you can’t take it so seriously as to be reverent because that’s not real. The tone I’m always trying to find is the tone of honoring the place, but in a way that’s real. Not glossing over a fact like, someone or something might be completely negative and distasteful. And the thing is, someone or something can be that way and still be great, being one doesn’t mean it can’t also be the other.
-from an Artist Interview with Revolve Arts, 2014
Watie channels an insatiable curiosity about people’s motives and experiences to connect his prolific and various bodies of work to communities. His specific interest in public art makes abandoned spaces his favorite canvases. No matter the medium, context or scale, Watie interweaves his work with conversation and contradictory points of view as a way to open windows into discourse.
Watie’s ability to rationalize a spectrum of views within a visual balance infuses unexpected meaning into his work, and reveals there is something very right about disagreement, and something more authentic than truth.