Exquisite Uterus Project comes to Morris Library

By Autumn Douglas, @adouglas_DE

Nearly all humans came from a uterus, and an art exhibit highlighting the essential organ is coming to SIU to start the conversation about women’s rights.

The Exquisite Uterus Art of Resistance Project will be set up in the Morris Library Rotunda on Monday.

Created by artists Helen Klebesadel and Alison Gates, the exhibit features more than 200 pieces from across the world, all of which present the female reproductive system in a “unique, creative way.” It will stay on display until April 1.


“The project grows out of their contention that reproductive freedom is critical to our human dignity, self-determination and equality,” according to the project’s website.

Barbara Bickel, associate professor in the School of Art and Design, said this is an important issue to talk about on a college campus, because it raises awareness among young men and women.

“They don’t even know the loss of rights that have gone on,” Bickel said. “We have rights that have been taken away and that’s not OK.”

Over time, the women’s rights movement has focused on different topics to fight for gender equality, such as the right to vote, equal pay and have access to necessary reproductive healthcare. In recent years, the women’s rights movement has shifted its focus to not only advocate for women to have control over their own bodies, but also to have affordable access to reproductive healthcare, something Klebesadel and Gates want to promote through the exhibit.

Although equal healthcare between men and women may seem to be common sense, the controversy seen on the news and in political debates primarily surrounds the issue of abortion. However, women’s healthcare centers provide other services as well, including STD testing, sex education and family planning, to name a few.

Klebesadel and Gates began this collaborative art project in 2012, and women are encouraged to contribute by ordering a white cloth with an illustration of the female reproductive system printed on it. From there, participants may decorate the cloth any way they want.

“[We] only ask that participants not take their uteri for granted and claim it as their own to direct,” Klebesadel said.


The exhibit is an opportunity to appreciate the powerful role women have in society, said Alexis Kimbrell, of Albion, who graduated from the university in December and is working on her thesis with a fashion show about unifying and empowering women

“With such a powerful role, it’s odd our voices are so small,” she said. “This will give some of their voice back.”

Bickel and Kimbrell said the exhibit may make people feel uncomfortable at first, but they hope it will make people realize that the vast majority of humans come from the same place — a woman’s uterus — and it’s nothing to be afraid of.

Autumn Douglas can be reached at [email protected] or 618-536-3325.