Meet the Artists | Judy Chicago | The Birth Project
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Meet the Artists | Judy Chicago | The Birth Project


I do not think art can change the world. I think art can educate,
inspire, empower people to act. Yeah, I just… we just started it. I’m an artist, and my goal was always
to make a contribution to art history. Young women artists often ask me how I feel about being called a feminist artist. As if there was always
a category of feminist art. Feminism is about
a different paradigm for the world that allows space for everybody. So the Birth Project was one step in my development as a feminist artist. There’s this quote about truth is found in the ignored and the forgotten and the left-out. I was trying to think
of images of birth in Western art, and literally I could not think
of any images of birth. So, I realized
that I wanted to tackle this subject. There was just an article in the Houston Post, and I recognized the name, Judy Chicago. So I wrote to them
and they sent me a sample pattern back, and I did that,
and it really snowballed after that. This piece was embroidered
by a woman in Houston, Texas, named Jane Gaddie Thompson. And she was one of the best needleworkers
I’ve ever worked with. She developed her own personal way of doing these fades. And that was
to work with nine needles at a time. I think it’s important to understand that not only was there an iconographic void about the subject matter, there was a total void
about how needlework is done. Now why would that be? Because it’s what women do. 150 volunteer stitchers around the country
worked with me, executing my designs
using a range of needle and textile techniques. I would review it either in person, meeting with the needleworker in Benicia or in Houston or in Chicago or in New York. Or I would do it through the mail. I did that for each of the 150 works that were in progress between 1980 and 1985 between five and six times a year. So, when somebody says,
What were you doing all that time? That’s what I was doing. A lot of the needleworkers
have to wrestle with all their family obligations. Like there was one needleworker
in Northern California. She and her husband
had both gone to art school together, and then they had children, and he kept working in his studio
and she stopped. And when she started working
on that Birth Project piece and wanted time for herself, she had to go into a room, lock the door, put headphones on with music
to block out his banging on the door. “I need something from you!
What are you doing?” I mean, you cannot imagine the struggle. So I learnt a lot about the reality
of most… a lot of women’s lives. You want a picture of the billboard, right?
– Yes, right. Okay… The first thing I did
was actually go and see a birth. And… it was astonishing. Then of course I got these… “How can you work on the subject of birth if you’ve never had children?” I used to say,
“Why, you don’t have to be crucified to paint a picture
of the crucifixion, now do you?” So that’s a complete
misunderstanding of art. Okay, you want to paste this… I have to say that there’s not anything
I really agree with Trump about, except fake news. Okay? Because I had
my own share of fake news, starting with the Sistine Chapel. There’s a male god,
reaches out his finger, creates man… Humankind is represented by mankind. Fake news. How many millions of people
have internalized that fake news? This piece, which is called The Creation, is kind of my response to that mythology, which turns reality on its head because here there is the female Earth and a female deity creating all the creatures of the world, and then creates woman. So this is just a different kind of fake news. But I like it better.

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