6 June 2024 • ArtsFaculty Womb Chair Speaks on Exhibit By Cassandra Lundgren ’26

Professor of American Studies Kirin Makker

Professor of American Studies Kirin Makker’s collaborative artwork Womb Chair Speaks is on display at the Winterthur Museum beginning this month.

With her ongoing project, Womb Chair Speaks, Professor of American Studies Kirin Makker tackles the cultural and physical mythologies of the womb by interrogating, refashioning and reclaiming Eero Saarinen’s classic Womb Chair, an icon of midcentury modern design.

Previously displayed at HWS, Harvard University and the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Aging and Care at the University of Graz, Austria, Womb Chair Speaks will be showcased at the Winterthur Museum of Decorative Arts in Winterthur, Del., as part of the “Transformations” exhibit of contemporary art. The piece was also featured when Makker was named to Good Morning America’s 2021 Inspiration List: Who’s Making AAPI History Right Now?

The Winterthur exhibit features more than 30 nationally recognized artists whose work draws inspiration from the museum’s extensive art, library and garden collections. Womb Chair Speaks will be on display from June 8, 2024 through Jan. 5, 2025.

Details of Womb Chair Speaks, photographed by Winterthur Museum staffDetails of Womb Chair Speaks, photographed by Winterthur Museum staff
Details of Womb Chair Speaks, photographed by Winterthur Museum staff.

The project has been the central teaching piece in Makker’s “Gender, Space and Narrative” seminar at HWS since 2022. In the course, students learn hand sewing skills through a series of independent creative projects and read the research informing Womb Chair Speaks, engaging in stitching as feminist cultural practice. In the last month of the course, students work on Womb Chair Speaks in stitching sessions. The project seeks to bring in multiple participants with a “quality over quantity” approach where substantive and physical engagement in the form of study, talk, and sewing labor are prized.

Abigail Frederick '20, Professor Kirin Makker, and Ainsley Rhodes '19 during museum installation in early May.

“I’m interested in cultivating space for dialogue that ultimately advances the larger project of women’s healthcare. Womb Chair Speaks specifically works to expand how we imagine the womb, both as a physical organ and as a social idea,” Makker explains. “The human womb biologically and what it represents socially should be dynamic and complex, not static and simple. So, we took a factory-made Womb Chair and brought back what had been erased in its original design and manufacturing: hand stitching. At shared stitching sessions, participants add appliqued felt flowers, Suffolk puffs, and embroidery to the Chair’s surfaces. As human labor builds and texture is added, talk ensues among participants. The project is ongoing and at any one time is a unique and momentary representation of amplified voices and narrative dimension.  In this way, the Womb Chair Speaks.”

For more information on the project, visit wombchairspeaks.net.

Pictured above, Womb Chair Speaks, photographed by Winterthur Museum staff.