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.
Featured in Ms. Magazine, the artist's MOTHER'S RIGHT performance + installation, Birth Words and Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey series, MOM$ and Correcting History projects, and Kimberly Said No performance, are part of Hartney's ongoing work focusing on women’s health. Hartney founded the Woman’s Health Collective in 2016, an organization dedicated to utilizing creative solutions to address women’s health issues by linking artists, designers, writers, musicians, technologists, healthcare providers, and activists to work collaboratively on socially engaged, community based projects.
Hartney has been highlighted on CNN's Great Big Story, as part of their “Instigators" series. Presented in conjunction with Every Mother Counts—a non-profit dedicated to maternal health, founded by Christy Turlington Burns—the series profiles people fighting for change in women’s health, spotlighting innovators in the field. Hartney, labeled a true "Instigator," is featured using her probing art to shine a light on the increasing dangers of childbirth in the United States.
MOTHER'S RIGHT—the artist's conceptual installation and performance piece—took place on Labor Day 2015 at the Richard J. Daley Center in Chicago, Illinois. For the performance, Hartney sewed 1,200 hospital gowns—one for every mother who died in childbirth in America in 2013. Each gown is hand silk-screened with the artist's drawings of the plant derivatives for the drugs that have been used on laboring women for the past 150 years. During the performance, several pairs of women 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, and as described by The American Legion, "The ninth fold is a tribute to womanhood, for it has been through their faith, love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great have been molded.” These custom-made hospital gowns have been cut to a length where the fabric stops on the ninth fold.
OBSTETRICS IN AMERICA: OUR PAST
OBSTETRICS IN AMERICA: MOTHER'S RIGHT
THE HEROES PROJECT
OBSTETRICS IN AMERICA: BIRTH WORDS
LOVE IN INTERSTELLAR SPACE