In response to the potential reversal of Roe v. Wade, an Over-the-Rhine art gallery is set to host an exhibit featuring wearable art and jewelry meant to ignite conversations surrounding reproductive rights.
A photograph depicting jewelry to be displayed in the upcoming contemporary art exhibit, Plan B Art Project, at Ombré Gallery shows a small red vase hanging from a woman’s neck. Stark, black chain criss-crosses just above the crimson object as decorative pendants drape the piece eloquently.
The woman’s glare is deeply profound and powerful, seemingly expressing disappointment or longing. She wears the expression and jewelry to call attention to the current state of reproductive rights in the United States, a mission shared by the Plan B Art Project. This traveling and collaborative exhibition, curated by Shauna Burke, opens June 18 at Over-the-Rhine’s Ombré Gallery. A percentage of proceeds will benefit Planned Parenthood.
“It is a vessel, a very feminine figure,” Jenna Shaifer, owner and director of Ombré Gallery, says of the photograph. “It’s bright red, the symbol of life and also death, a symbol of strength. It’s powder-coated on copper and sterling silver. The combination of the photograph and her wearing the piece is emblematic of the strength that women have and how we, as mothers, as sisters of this earth, we have to take care of one another. And if you don’t take care of the vessel, we all will suffer the consequences. I'm projecting my feelings onto the piece and I'm sure someone else that looks at it will see something completely different. I think that's what’s so wonderful about all of this jewelry. Every piece will connect you to something and that comes from your own experience and your own background.”
The Plan B Art Project will showcase more than 40 artists and pieces of contemporary, handmade jewelry in its Cincinnati installment, including pins, earrings and necklaces. Coming from its debut in Boston, the exhibit features wearable art inspired by current issues surrounding reproductive rights and health.
The recent leak of a U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion revealed the potential overturn of Roe v. Wade, an action that could lead to individual state’s elimination of abortion care access entirely. The imminent threat this may pose on all types of reproductive healthcare like birth control (or, for example, the emergency contraception Plan B One-Step) will also be in question. In Ohio specifically, two “trigger bans'' are in consideration: House Bill 598 and Senate Bill 123. Projections declare that Ohioans may only gain access to abortion care if a physician deems the procedure, “necessary to prevent the pregnant individual’s death or a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.”
While Ombré has sold specific pieces to raise funds for local non-profits, this is the first time it will dedicate an entire exhibition to a nationwide cause, Shaifer says. The Plan B Art Project promises 25% of sales will be donated directly to Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio. As work sells and travels, the exhibit will change and grow. The show in Boston generated $1,295 for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Cincinnati’s installment will be larger, providing an opportunity for an even bigger donation.
“I think there’s been an upswell of concern about what is happening with reproductive rights in this country and the eroding of it,” says Shaifer. “Art is a move to action and an artists' way to move to action is to create and draw awareness to issues. My job is to show you what's going on in the contemporary art jewelry world, and what's important to society at large, what's happening and how it's affecting the arts. We are seeing a number of organizations respond to the times, this is one of those issues.”
Burke, goldsmith and assistant professor at Pratt Institute, tasked each artist to include the symbol of an amphora bottle in their work (like the red vessel in the previously mentioned photo). Burke’s idea to use an ancient artifact such as the amphora to carry the message and connect individual creations is more than symbolic.
An amphora, in its most basic state, is a jar with two vertical handles. It was uncovered in excavations of ancient Greece. While its shape resembles the anatomy of a woman’s reproductive system, the artifacts were also discovered to have held abortifacient herbs and pharmaceuticals to end pregnancies.
“I think what's interesting is that once we discovered this idea that there were actually herbs used to end pregnancies back when, it is not a new thing in society,” says Shaifer. “A lot of artists used flowers and herbs and different things in their work to make it look like that. So at first appearance it looks very innocuous, but once you understand the concept you can see deeper into what these pieces mean.”
Patrons can expect various examples of jewelry design and craft. Everything from gold and silver to pearls and diamonds have been used in jeweler interpretations. The Plan B Art Project shares Ombré’s mission to emphasize the diverse use of jewelry in its contemporary form, meaning it doesn't have to only hang on your neck, it can also hang on your wall or sit on a dresser for decorative touch. Some of the pieces even have removable facets and interactive aspects.
The Plan B Art Project runs through July 30. An opening reception is to be held from 1-3 p.m. Saturday, June 18, where Burke will be present to interact with guests. Online and in-store sales will be available throughout the duration of the exhibit, and prices range roughly from $75-$3000.
“We are hoping that we not only sell work but we also want people to start the conversations,” Shaifer says. “Talk to people they normally don't talk to and spread awareness.”