The Birth Project

"Birth Power" Judy Chicago

Created in the '80s, The Birth Project is a collection of works on paper, lithograph and serigraph prints as well as needlework representing and honoring the elements of the birthing process.

Judy Chicago believed there to be an absence of iconography that explored birthing in American and Western art. The work explores motherhood, the spiritual as well as emotional experience of giving birth and feminine politics. As a career artist, author, educator and activist she pursued the creation of these works that have been displayed in more than 100 venues. Although the works are in their fourth decade the concept of birth is everlasting.

“It is interesting to me that the work seems as relevant today as it was over 30 years ago when I first created it,” said Chicago in a press release.

Chicago worked with more than 150 needleworkers around the country to create the project.

“Those women [needleworkers]—most of them don’t consider themselves artists, they’re doing women’s work, embroidery and crocheting, that kind of thing,” said Janet Webb, long time friend of Chicago, an advisor and member of the collections committee at the Harwood Museum. “I think it was a really empowering experience to them to see their work displayed in art museums,” she said.

The exhibition will include more than 20 works that will further discuss the mythological representations in relation to women and creation.

“The real center piece of this show is the piece called Birth,” said Webb. The piece was executed by Dolly Kaminski, it is more than 7 feet tall and 18 feet wide. The piece was created with a black, laced crochet style. “It’s [Birth] hung 6 inches off the wall so the shadow, casts on the wall when the light passes through it, becomes part of the piece,” said Webb.

The exhibition will be completely created with pieces from Chicago’s collection and works from purely New Mexican collections including the Harwood’s collection, the University of New Mexico’s Art Museum collection, the Albuquerque Museum’s collections and even works from a private collector in Santa Fe.

A curator from the Albuquerque Museum as well as Webb and J. Matthew Thomas helped to organize and curate the feminine display.

The Harwood will also be including a timeline of Chicago’s life and works in the exhibition. She is most known for her permanent piece within the Brooklyn Museum, The Dinner Party, an installation that features 39 place settings within a triangle (symbology of femininity) formed table. Each place setting represents a woman in history, both mythological and historical.

Other projects include Power Play, The Holocaust Project and her feminist organization Through the Flower. She has received many awards including a Lifetime Achievement Award and the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts from Santa Fe.

In 2018 Time magazine labelled her one of the “100 Most Influential People.”

The exhibition as mentioned, is as relevant today as it was 30 years ago, after all birth is how we all arrive in this world according to Chicago. She is a resident of Belen, New Mexico and recently there was opposition to a museum proposed by the mayor that would honor her work within the town. Her work was considered too controversial due to representations of genitalia and the town discarded the plans. Taos is eager to welcome Chicago’s work and does not so easily deter from women’s sexual organs.

“It [The Birth Project] resonates withthis strong current of celebrating strong women in our community that we have been doing for many years,” said Thomas.

“Empowering women is a big part of it, most of her life has been about education for women, empowering women to be artists and getting women in the arts more present in museums,” said Webb. “Birth is the timeless subject."

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