Good TroubleComment

Judy Chicago: The Birth Project

Good TroubleComment
Judy Chicago: The Birth Project

After 35 years and exhibitions in more than 100 countries, Judy Chicago’s The Birth Projecta series of needle works and paintings exploring the birth process in all its grotesque gloryis needed now more than ever.

Hailed as ‘The Godmother’ of feminist art, Judy Chicago is five-decades deep into re-imagining the female subject. From The Dinner Party (1979), a celebratory exhibition of 39 place settings for pioneering women, to PowerPlay (1985), a dark enquiry into the rabid consequences of male power, Chicago has remained steadfast in her foundational principle that women engaging in the highest level of art production is an act of liberation and therefore a propeller of social change.

Now her most controversial piece The Birth Project (1980-1985), a series of images exploring and celebrating the dimensions of the birth process, is on display at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos, New Mexico. Sewn together by 150 skilled needle workers across the U.S, The Birth Project is a series of needle works and paintings that–thanks to New Mexico institutions–are all finally sharing the same museum space.

The work is by form a vibrant provocation: a literal representation of the medium through which ‘we all arrive in the world’. To entrench oneself in understanding the process of birth and the remarkable physicality required in such an act is a necessity in the present moment where the debate on women’s control over their own bodies has become an imperative battle to win.

Judy Chicago, Birth Trinity, 1985, Serigraph on Stonehenge natural White, 30 x 40 inches, ed. 75 © Judy Chicago

Judy Chicago, Birth Trinity, 1985, Serigraph on Stonehenge natural White, 30 x 40 inches, ed. 75 © Judy Chicago

Judy Chicago,  Birth Tear/Tear,  1984, macrame over drawing on fabric, 46 x 55.5 in © Judy Chicago

Judy Chicago, Birth Tear/Tear, 1984, macrame over drawing on fabric, 46 x 55.5 in © Judy Chicago

 
Judy Chicago, Birth Power, 1984, Embroidery over drawing on silk, 20 x 20 inches. Needlework by Sandie Abel © Judy Chicago

Judy Chicago, Birth Power, 1984, Embroidery over drawing on silk, 20 x 20 inches. Needlework by Sandie Abel © Judy Chicago

Judy Chicago, Mother India, 1985, painting, applique, and embroidery on fabric, 127 x 96 in. © Judy Chicago

Judy Chicago, Mother India, 1985, painting, applique, and embroidery on fabric, 127 x 96 in. © Judy Chicago

Unfortunately there are some who do not believe that stimulating art can be a vehicle for political change. In small towns of New Mexico, including Chicago’s own residence of Belen, many found her past representations of genitalia too revealing and refused to exhibit The Birth Project. Naturally, the exhibit found a home in Harwood Museum, only a few short months after the museum removed all works made by men and filled every gallery with ‘Work by Women: From the Collections’.

Chicago’s work is in great company. The Birth Project is part of the New Mexico Women’s Cultural Corridor, an archival project that traces a treasure-map of ‘creative trailblazers’ across five cities of N.M, rearing a visual conversation between Judy Chicago, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Agnes Martin, Maria Martinez, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Millicent Rogers.

The Birth Project is on display at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos through November 10, 2019. Educate yourself - go if you can.

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