After an experience she had while giving birth to her son, Chicago-based artist, Michelle Hartney, whose work addresses a broad range of topics, including women’s maternal health, set out to visually tell the stories of other women who have reported varying degrees of mistreatment by their doctors during childbirth, everything from being ignored to being on the receiving end of bullying behavior, abusive and threatening language, coercion, threats, etc. She calls the awareness raising project Birth Words.
To create the work, Michelle writes on her site, “I gathered quotes from Improving Birth’s #BreakTheSilence campaign where women told their stories of abuse at the hands of their doctors. I sewed these words onto canvases covered with hospital gown fabric I designed.”
In regard to what she’s trying to say with this and some of her other projects that focus on maternal health and care – MOM$ (maternal healthcare costs) and Mother’s Right (maternal mortality), Michelle explains, “My artwork is not trying to say that doctors are bad or hospitals are bad. What I’m trying to say is that women need to know that they need to be informed when they’re going into childbirth.”
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.
In 2015 she became the Chicago rally coordinator for Improving Birth’s nationwide Labor Day rallies. Most recently, Michelle, who has twenty-six years of distance running experience, including several marathons, triathlons, and running cross country and track for Purdue University, became a running ambassador for Every Mother Counts, a non-profit organization dedicated to making pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother.