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Home » News » Judy Chicago’s Birth Project: Born Again Commentary

Judy Chicago’s Birth Project: Born Again Commentary

Published November 4, 2016

Judy Chicago’s Birth Project: Born Again

September 23 – November 13, 2016

This selection of works from the Birth Project, with brief commentary, is placed on the website specifically for people who may not be able to explore the exhibition on site. Commentary allows greater availability of the work, for example to those with vision impairment who can access these pieces via computer reading devices and hear the text at home.

 

 

Creation of the World PP2

Creation of the World PP2

Birth Tear/ Tear BT ST 1

Birth Tear/ Tear BT ST 1

Creation of the World PP2, Exhibition Unit 45, 1984, 10 3/4 x 15 in.

Design, drawing on silk mesh, border design, and color specifications: Judy Chicago

Petit Point: Jean Berens

Courtesy: Through the Flower
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Judy Chicago identifies Creation of the World as the first Birth Project image she developed. In this work, she retells creation from a female point of view, showing the changes in the earth and diversification of its life forms. Despite the vast feeling of the subject, the work is small and jewel-like in its color and detail.
Birth Tear/Tear BT ST 1, Exhibition Unit 81, 1985, 46 x 55 ½ in.

Design, drawing on fabric, and color specifications: Judy Chicago

Macramé over drawing: Pat Rudy-Baese

Courtesy: Through the Flower
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This image is powerful. The title, with the image, suggests two meanings through the use of the words “tear” and “tear.” The first “tear” in the title refers to surgical tears that occur during childbirth. Approximately half of women experience this during childbirth.

The second “tear” in the title refers to the conflict women can sometimes feel about the decision to become a parent. A tear seeps from the right eye of the figure as she strains to birth and nurture her children who cling to and grab for her.
The Crowning NP3

The Crowning NP3

Guided by the Goddess

Guided by the Goddess

The Crowning NP3, Exhibition Unit 18, 1983, 35 ½ x 51 ½ in.

Design: Judy Chicago; hand painting: Judy Chicago with Lynda Healy

Needlepoint: Kathryn Haas Alexander

Collection: Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts
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In this Crowning image Chicago celebrates the female process and experience of child birth. Historically, images of birthing women nearly disappeared in the western world. In the 1980s, with the Birth Project, Chicago visually reversed that history. The woman in The Crowning looks down to observe and understand the process, and this is symbolic of her self-power. Her body forms a yellow butterfly silhouette, which is a symbol of metamorphosis. Lines with wavelike patterns surround the body of the woman. The energy in the piece merges with the central and altarpiece-like placement of the body. A sacred feeling is also communicated through stitching patterns in yellows, golds, and sparkling threads. This holistic image uses the body of the woman to celebrate not only the meaningful process of birthing but also a sense of empowerment and self-respect.
Guided by the Goddess, Silkscreen, 1985, 34 x 44 in.

Courtesy: Through the Flower, Inc.
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This silkscreen of a Birth Project image demonstrates one of Chicago’s working processes. Chicago recreated this image and a selection of others in print form from the textile pieces of the same name. Both the silkscreened and textile versions convey similar meanings. Chicago designed this image from comments she heard mothers express – they felt like goddesses as their newborns stared into their faces. Here Chicago pushes her creation imagery further by revealing the responsibility that comes after creation – continued nourishment and support. This image, with others in the Birth Project series, meets Chicago’s goal “to make the feminine holy.” The Harford Seminary owns the textile version of Guided by the Goddess and keeps it on permanent display within an area where groups of both genders meet for “circles, prayer groups, ritual, and class.”
Birth Trinity NP 1

Birth Trinity NP 1

The Crowning Q5

The Crowning Q5

Birth Trinity NP 1, Exhibition Unit 28, 1983, 51 x 130 ½ in.

Design, drawing, painting, and color specifications: Judy Chicago

Needlepoint: “Teaneck Seven,” Susan Bloomenstein, Elizabeth Colten, Karen Fogel, Helene Hirmes, Bernice Levitt, Linda Rothenberg, and Miriam Vogelman

Courtesy: Through the Flower
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This piece is vibrant and uses powerful colors and lines to convey its meaning. Judy Chicago designed this image based on historical research of birthing positions in various cultures over time. There are 3 figures: a woman giving birth, her husband or another holding her from behind, and a midwife in front. Chicago described the semi-sitting birthing woman mythologically as “human female and the earth.”
The Crowning Q5, Exhibition Unit 2, 1982, 56 ½ x 89 in.

Design, drawing on fabric, and color specifications: Judy Chicago

Reverse applique and quilting: Jacquelyn (Moore) Alexander

Collection: Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts
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In this quilt there are four female figures giving birth. Birth can mean actually giving birth to a child or it may mean the birth of other creations, like artworks or ideas. The expanding lines of the quilt represent changes women experience while giving birth. The pattern of change they form is energetic and just as important as the four figures themselves. Changes, dependent on the type of creation, can occur in women’s bodies and in their thinking. This piece reflects respect for the female body and intellect. In the Birth Project book, Chicago quotes Gwen Glesman, a needleworker who stitched a Crowning image: “My whole involvement in stitching this piece became a celebration of my own rebirth and the incredible joy of bringing myself out of the oppressive roles I have been taught and peeling away the layers of self-doubt that surrounded me.”