Every day, 385,000 babies are pushed from the warm, ambient and welcoming homes of their mothers’ wombs into a cruel cacophony of sound, bright light, and all the unknown. Birth, our first experience, although impossible to remember, is something we leave behind. Despite our pleas to return to the womb where there are no jobs, taxes, or chores, we will never again experience the security of being carried, carried, and mostly hidden.
That is, until now.
No, we are not talking about a feat of science or technology, we are talking about art as an act of compassion and for multidisciplinary artist Jessica DeMuro Graves, an act of healing, resistance and a big fucking “fuck”. you “go to war on women’s bodies, as evidenced by oppressive abortion bans like the one that recently went into effect in Texas.
DeMuro Graves is one of 15 collaborating artists on Womxnhouse Detroit, an immersive, interactive, multi-installation, multi-scene project focused on providing female-identifying artists a platform to explore feminist ideals through their respective media. It also serves as a metaphor for the importance of women occupying space in their homes, their communities, and while moving around the world.
The house selected to house the project is not an old house, it is the childhood home of Asia Hamilton, curator of the exhibition and owner of Norwest Gallery. Womxnhouse Detroit will be the first in-home event Hamilton is working to transform into an arts residency for women. The project itself also has some pretty powerful roots, as it is an extension and reimagining of the historic feminist art installation and performance space Womenhouse in Chicago, founded by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro in the early 1970s in Chicago. as a way for women to subvert gender. papers and relaunch the male gaze.
“I’ve been a person for a long time who has maintained women’s reproductive rights, women’s autonomy, women’s identities, and the safety of those things in anticipation of many of the projects I’ve done,” says DeMuro Graves. , and adds that he has made full bodies. of the work on the experience of sexual assault.
For their Womxnhouse Detroit installation, DeMuro Graves, along with co-curator and lead facilitator Laura Earle, have transformed an upstairs bedroom into a womb. Earle created the wooden structure DeMuro Graves is building as a large-scale reinterpretation of a womb made up primarily of fiber arts, as well as immersive soundscapes to mimic the muted, ambient, and puffy tones we experience in utero. The space will have a bean bag-like seating element that allows visitors to return to the womb, which as DeMuro Graves suggests, is a return to themselves.
The idea behind “The Womb” was not sparked by politics or comments about women’s bodies, but from a deeply personal vantage point. When DeMuro Graves was invited to join Womxnhouse, he had just found out that she was pregnant.
“We found out about a month after our wedding,” she says of the pregnancy. “We were on the moon. And halfway through the planning process, at eight weeks, I had this devastating miscarriage. And for me, I thought, well, the uterus doesn’t change. This doesn’t change the project at all. In fact. , I think it just lends itself to this project in a weird way, “he continues.
“Miscarriage is something else that women experience and men experience as well. So I started to realize that the uterus is the epicenter, right? It is this source of creation, but also of destruction. Also, many of the women that we identify with we go through that monthly birth-death-rebirth cycle. So, while it may be jarring, it can feel like a journey back to your original home in some way. In some way, shape or form, in the As far as science works right now, everyone to this world through the womb. ”
However, DeMuro Graves had been following the passage of the abortion ban in Texas since May, and when it took effect earlier this month, he had to do something. Not wanting to obstruct the complex sanctity of “The Womb,” she and Earle came up with a last-minute installation to add to Womxnhouse Detroit: the wire hanger monster.
It is not its official name, but it promises to be scarier than any of the imaginary beasts that hide under the beds of our childhood. DeMuro Graves describes the piece as a “monstrous waterfall effect of coat hangers cascading from a dark closet.” However, the piece is two-part and guests will experience the first part before entering the home.
The house itself will feature works by Melinda “MeMe” Anderson, Loralei R Byatt, Amelia Duran, Setareh Ghoreishi, Erin Gold, Olivia Guterson, Donna Jackson, Melanie Manos, Sabrina Nelson, Dalia Reyes, Leslie Sobel, and Rosa Maria Zamarron, and It will include experiences like an apothecary, a prayer room and a COVID-19 memorial, which explores loss and how often women get the brunt for families.
DeMuro Graves realizes that Womxnhouse Detroit will likely appeal to people who already experience the very things the installation project seeks to recreate and explore and can serve as a truly healing journey through femininity. But reflect on earlier work focused on sexual assault. When she presented the work almost a decade ago, she was shocked when the first person who approached her to express how the work made them feel was not a woman, it was a man. And he said it was cathartic for him.
“I didn’t expect it to be the first person to come up to me,” he says. “But I always hope that art will achieve the unexpected.”
Womxnhouse Detroit will open to the public from September 18 to October 23, 2021 at 15354 St. Marys Street in Detroit; bit.ly/3tuyy0N. Admission is free, but tickets are required.