Although there are numerous revolutionary contexts to the different series of artworks throughout Judy Chicago’s career, The Birth Project combined political statement with a surprising choice of medium: while the subject matter was radically feminist, the matrix—a textile—was too. The selection of embroidery was Chicago’s consciously unorthodox choice for a contemporary work of fine art. Chicago collaborated with more than 150 needleworkers (1980-85) to create images combining painting and stitching that celebrated aspects of human birth, from the actual to the metaphorical. Individual needleworkers on the project were acknowledged rather than anonymous.
At the Museum of Fine Arts (MoFA), there is every good reason to pair exhibition offerings and talented personnel at the University. Viki D. Thompson Wylder, PhD, Curator of Judy Chicago’s Birth Project: Born Again, was the architect of a program for visiting students of Lighthouse coordinated by their Youth Services Specialist Lauren Switzer. Professor Sandra Lewis, EdD, of the FSU Visual Disabilities Program and her students were co-hosts. Dr. Wylder and Ashley Hartman, PhD candidate in Art Therapy, presented an overview at the Saturday workshop, along with artist Mariann Kearsley who created a half-sized reproduction of Swaddled Figure with Ramona Abernathy-Paine and Leslie Cohen as a tactile teaching object that could be handled by the students. After they learned the history and context of Chicago’s art, the students experienced weaving on the looms of artists Ramona Abernathy-Paine and Terry Carley. The Lighthouse students wrapped up their day with a communal artwork integrating loom-weaving and individual works they had stitched as separate components for a tapestry: their tapestry remained on exhibition until The Birth Project: Born Again closed in November.