For the performance, Hartney is sewing 1,200 hospital gowns—one for every mother who died in childbirth in America in 2013. The folded gowns represent not only the 1,200 women who died during childbirth, but also the women who have suffered abuse at the hands of obstetricians and nurses, and for the increasing number of women who are being diagnosed with postpartum PTSD after giving birth. Each gown is hand silk-screened with the artist's drawings of the plant derivatives from the drugs that have been used on laboring women for the past 150 years, composed to resemble traditional hospital gown fabric. In preparation, Hartney will host a 'Sew-In' at her Chicago studio to create a portion of the gowns and to foster the community of men and women who are helping to raise awareness for this important human rights issue. In addition, Hartney has created a limited edition run of framed, 6 x 6 inch tondos—circular works of art—featuring the unique silk-screened fabric used throughout the project. The sale of these tondos will contribute additional funding for future iterations of the MOTHER'S RIGHTperformance, which will aim to engage more artistic and cultural venues in 2016.
In the Labor Day performance, several pairs of women will stand facing one other, folding the handmade gowns into triangles—similar to the way the American flag is folded at the funeral of a solider. The traditional flag-folding ceremony includes twelve symbolic folds, with the ninth fold symbolizing womanhood. These custom-made hospital gowns have been cut to a length where the fabric stops on the ninth fold.
According to the World Health Organization, since 1995, the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. has increased 250%—and is ranked at the top of all developed countries globally. In 2013, eight countries reported an increase in maternal mortality rates: Afghanistan, Belize, El Salvador, Guinea-Bissau, Greece, Seychelles, South Sudan, and the United States. The United States spends three times more money on childbirth than Great Britain, yet our maternal mortality rate is over three times higher. Among these numbers, African American women are four times more likely to die during childbirth in the U.S. than Caucasian women. MOTHER'S RIGHT seeks to bring awareness to these issues and to some of the basic human rights that are being violated on a daily basis in the United States.
DATE + TIME
Richard J. Daley Center
50 West Washington Street
Chicago, IL 60602
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ABOUT MICHELLE HARTNEY
Michelle Hartney is a Chicago-based artist whose work addresses a broad range of topics—from women’s health issues, to the concept of heroes, love, and the cosmos. She works in a variety of materials, including fiber, wood, found objects, and most recently, performance. Her interest in using art to address social issues began during her graduate studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she was an Albert Schweitzer Fellow.
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