The Aesthetics of Childbirth

In Sheila Lintott & Maureen Sander-Staudt (eds.), Philosophical Inquiries into Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Mothering: Maternal Subjects. Routledge. pp. 215-236 (2012)
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Images abound of women throughout the ages engaging in various activities. But why are there so few representations of childbirth in visual art? Feminist artist Judy Chicago once suggested that depictions of women giving birth do not commonly occur in Western culture but can be found in other contexts such as pre-Columbian art or societies previously considered "primitive." Chicago's own exploration of the theme resulted in the creation of The Birth Project (1980-85): an unprecedented series of eighty handcrafted works of art created in a variety of needlework techniques by more than 130 artisans that celebrate the experience of birth and a woman's transformation into motherhood. But why is The Birth Project an aberration from today's norm? What are the reasons that childbirth remains a taboo subject in our visual culture? Why is the birthing experience--so pervasive for women--so infrequently celebrated, even by female artists?

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Peg Brand Weiser
University of Oregon


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