This artwork challenges cultural and physical mythologies of the womb through an interrogation and refashioning of the Womb Chair (1948) by Eero Saarinen. The purpose of this project is to amplify the wombs’--and by extension womens’--struggles to be heard and given attentive health care.
An iconographic piece of mid-century furniture, this chair has a strange history as a cultural text. It appeared with regularity in the pages of Playboy magazine as a badge of sexual vigor and past conquests. It also showed up in a Norman Rockwell cover for the Saturday Evening Post as a nurturing escape from domestic labor. But really, are we surprised that a chair adopting the moniker “womb” would be culturally cast as either Sexual Conquest or Mothering Comfort?
This project, Womb Chair Speaks reclaims the chair from these spaces of masculine repose by placing it in spaces of collective-making and discussion (the temporary craftivist pop-up installation and exhibition). In its new spaces, the chair is slowly hand-sewn and re-upholstered with hand-made felt ruffles, roses, and Suffolk puffs, re-acquiring aesthetic markers of women’s labor and donning the feminine frills purposefully shed by modern designers. This womb shows layers of memory, narrative complexity and resilience. In this form, the Womb Chair speaks multitudes.
Combining felt applique and embroidery, the refashioned chair will represent the womb of a woman who has suffered from endometriosis for over three decades. The surface of the chair will change from smooth and idealized into one that is engulfed and engorged with a landscape of felt cysts, tumors and aberrant growths in a range of textures and densities. The production of the chair is laborious and aggregative.
Metaphors associated with the womb should reflect a full array of dynamic, challenging, and complex womb lives. Only by amplifying the womb's other narratives -- stories that are not about sex or pregnancy -- will knowledge about the womb expand. We need society to see the womb as a human organ, inside more than 50% of the world's infants, children, adults and elderly.
It's time to let the womb speak.