Judy Chicago’s “The Crowning”

Judy Chicago's "The Crowning"

The Crowning by Judy Chicago (1984). Painting on 18 mesh canvas by Judy Chicago with Lynda Healy; needlepoint by Frannie Yablonsky. 40 1/2 x 61 1/2 in. (102.9 x 152.4 cm).

In my previous posts on the monumental undertaking of Judy Chicago’s Birth Project, or a large-scale project that took five years to complete and included the needlework of over 130 women, I discussed the quilt pieces of Chicago’s Earth Birth and Hatching the Universal Egg.  Today, I look at one of Chicago’s most famous pieces from the project, The Crowning.

Hanging as a tapestry, the work presents the abstract figure of a woman holding up her own legs in support as her baby crowns from her body.  The glowing, flesh-like colors remind the viewer of the life energy shared between mother and child during the birth experience.  Different tones of these colors appear to vibrate and ripple out from the woman’s body, surrounding her like soft layers of a warm sun. The woman is strong and capable on her own as she births her baby into the world.

Under criticism that her work from the Birth Project was graphic, Chicago has explained that people are just not accustomed to seeing work like it, and that, “if men had babies, there would be thousands of images of the crowning” (in Mark Arnest’s Judy Chicago / Feminist Sensibilities have long made her work [2001]).

Judy Chicago is an American artist known for her large-scale feminist installation pieces, which enage the viewer and explore the roles and treatment of women in history, art and culture.  Her work is available widely across the internet, and more about her Birth Project may be seen here.

Reproductions of Chicago’s The Crowning exist in lithograph form.

Judy Chicago's "The Crowning"