The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC, has turned its facade into a giant feminist billboard. | Catch My Job


Scaffolding wraps the facade of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, whose building in downtown Washington, DC, closes in August 2021 for a $67.5 million renovation. Although the building is closed until next fall, the museum is rarely idle.

On Monday, NMWA unveiled a major textile commission by Austrian artist Katharina Cibulka. Suspended across the north face of the building is a nearly 11,000-square-foot banner with a message for Washington, written in cross-stitch embroidery: As long as the generations change but our struggles remain the same, I will be a feminist.

The piece, the latest in Cibulka’s “SOLANGE” series — which refers to the German words for “as long as” — is her first installation for the United States as well as her largest to date. Rendered in letters in pink tulle over a white mesh fabric that hugs the existing scaffolding, the artist’s words point to the frustration felt by women in Washington and nationwide.

The clear American context for Cibulka’s installation of literal texts is the US Supreme Court’s decision in June to overturn Roe v. WadeA watershed moment as the majority of Americans see it made a wrong decision. Conservative efforts to enact a sweeping agenda using the judiciary have successfully rolled back rights that Americans have relied on for nearly half a century. For people experiencing unexpected or complicated pregnancies in conservative-led states, this reversal is an unfolding crisis, the full weight of which may not be felt for years or even decades.

Courts Dobbs Decisions loom large in the midterms, and Washingtonians will no doubt read Cibulka’s prompt through a political lens as the November elections approach. (The installation is on view through Feb. 26.) Yet in the District of Columbia, one of the nation’s most progressive strongholds, women face a generational struggle to secure decent health care.

Because the district leads the nation in maternal mortality, a dubious distinction that manifests as a serious public health crisis, especially for black people. In 2019, the city of Washington had a maternal mortality rate of 36 per 100,000 live births, United Health Foundation. That’s not worse than average for the US – it is Worse than defeat for Syria. Black women in DC bear the brunt of the crisis: In 2019, black people who gave birth died 71 times per 100,000 in the city.

Widespread inequalities in access to women’s reproductive health and care Begin to explain this dire situation. These and other inequalities are more like chronic conditions than sudden crises: this is what Sibulka is telling us.

Looking beyond Cibulka’s words, the installation lined up with another Infrastructure-art presentations across the city: A painting by Swiss artist Nicolas Party graces the scaffolding over the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. There is scrim.

A closer look at Cibulka’s letters reveals another nuance. The 3.6-foot-tall letters that the artist cross-stitched into this building-sized embroidery are pink but not curly. They’re not even serifs. His work does not look like craftsmanship; It looks a lot like a computer readout. As if he were calmly talking about the matter at hand. This is not a desperate plea. This is an official notification.

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