Following the success of their 2017 and 2018 Designing Women exhibitions, the women of Egg Collective (founded 2011 by Stephanie Beamer, Crystal Ellis and Hillary Petrie) return with a new edition themed ‘Mother’. Social justice campaigns for marginalised groups—including women—have grown exponentially since the first Designing Women exhibition. This in turn has sparked belated prominence for women such as 90-year-old multi-media activist-artist Faith Ringgold who is best known for her narrative quilts and who is a featured artist in this third edition of Designing Women (DW3).
The 2021 DW3 exhibition celebrates women artists and designers who are mothers (although the exact criteria for what constitutes a ‘mother’ in the 21st century aren’t as encompassing as one would hope, but is implied as a woman who has given birth). As a sub-group of the global female population, mothers have been severely negatively impacted by the global pandemic, making this exhibition a welcome correction to the chronic historical underrepresentation of women (whether mothers or not) that predates the pandemic.
DW3 highlights the work of women who ‘are making notable contributions to the art and design landscape’. Not all the women featured in the exhibition are alive—a few including Line Vautrin, Charlotte Perriand, Louise Bourgeois, Gae Aulenti—are historical figures of the 20th century although it’s commendable and correct to credit their work as still making ‘notable’ contributions to society.
Raising awareness of pioneering breakthroughs and challenges faced by women designers no longer with us creates a balance and a welcome timeline with those in the exhibition who are inheritors and advocates for the continuum of women in craft and art. It should be stressed too—as the Egg founder trio and co-curator Tealia Ellis Ritter note—that the mere ability to create art and design while caring for—and in many cases, educating—children during the 2020-2021 lockdown is in itself a ‘notable contribution’ to society. This exhibition pays tribute to all women who incur the ‘motherhood penalty’.
Featured works plus DW3 participants whose work encompass rugs and textiles includes:
Tank 2004—a quilt by Loretta Pettway Bennett, a fifth generation quiltmaker and a member of the acclaimed Quilters of Gee’s Bend, Alabama.
New York-based artist Carolyn Salas exhibits TBT a tufted wool tapestry that depicts a reclining female nude.
Egg co-founder Stephanie Beamer declared Maria Pergay (born 1930) as ‘a kind of matriarch for the [exhibition]’. Pergay’s three works in DW3 are casegoods, but in a carpet-related nod to the genius of her designs we end by noting Pergay’s contribution to design history includes her stainless steel, fabric and foam Lit Tapis Volant or Flying Carpet Daybed designed in 1968.
The exhibition continues until 28 May 2021 . Egg Collective has partnered with Every Mother Counts for this exhibition. Every Mother Counts’ mission is to make pregnancy and childbirth safe for women everywhere.