In reaction to, what is being called the most current ‘War on Women,’ two artists, known notorious Feminists,and sometime curators Helen Klebesadel and Alison Gates facilitated this collaborative art project. An invitation was extended to interested artists and other motivated participants asking them to embellish a plain cloth uterus “blank” (a square of organic white cotton canvas fabric with a simple black and gray medical illustration of a female reproductive system printed permanently on its surface.) Participants were invited to manipulate the blank uterus in any way their fertile imaginations desire, making their prodigious powers of selfexpression and creativity obvious to all.
Alison and Helen asked that we not take our uterus for granted, but that we claim it! When asked for guidance from the curators the typical response was, “Its YOUR uterus. You get to do whatever you want with it!” Participants were urged to have fun with it but to consider how our ability to take control of our own personal uterus (and health care decisions) is a very serious and, now, political issue.
The response to the project has been overwhelming. Makers range from professional artists to first time creatives, all determined to have their say. They are healthcare workers, and parents, men and women, of all ages and backgrounds. Almost 200 uteri appeared from all over the USA, Canada, Germany, and Denmark. They came as quilt squares, pillows, aprons, and headdresses. Each uterus is unique, and each one addresses some aspect of women’s reproductive health or well-being. Along with the uteri have come statements and stories that range from empowering and moving to sad, and funny. Stories of the making of the uteri have included individuals creating their submissions anonymously, because it was too hard to be identified with the project, to groups women coming together in their communities to make art, support and learn about their local reproductive health providers, and to register to vote (sometimes all in the same evening).
Alison and Helen are humbled and awed by the power of feminist humor and creativity represented in this project and its promise of agency and action. You can see the virtual version of this project with artist statements on pinterest here.
You can see a short 8 minute video of the response to the project at Southern Illinois University here.
Carefully selected; marked by flawless craftsmanship or by beautiful ingenious, or elaborate execution; deep sensitivity or intense understanding; pleasing through beauty fitness, or perfection…
Among Surrealist techniques exploiting the mystery of accident, it was a collective collage of words or images called the cadavre exquis (exquisite corpse). Based on an old parlor game, it was played by several people, each of whom would place their contribution on sheet of paper, fold the paper to conceal part of it, and pass it on to the next player for his contribution.
a major female hormone-related reproductive sex organ of most mammals including humans. One end, the cervix, opens into the vagina, while the other is connected to the fallopian tubes and ovaries. It is within the uterus that the fetus develops during gestation. It is attached to bundles of nerves, and networks of arteries, veins, and ligaments that are essential to sexual response in directing blood flow to the pelvis and to the external genitalia.
An ingenious collaborative project, elaborately executed and sensitive to the perspective of women who seek to retain control over their own uteri without over-medicalization, or government or religious intervention in their reproductive health. Beautifully executed to respond to the politics of the times. The project promotes common and affordable access for all to medical and preventative healthcare necessary for reproductive health and well-being, and recognizes that women are the appropriate decision-makers for their reproductive and other life choices.