Gentrification of Birth

Shandaken Projects is pleased to announce a new billboard by Amy Beecher, appearing at the northeast corner of 174th Street and Broadway, Manhattan, from June 5 through 26. This is the first major public artwork by Beecher, who is an alumna of The Shandaken Project (Shandaken Projects’ first residency program, offered from 2012 through 2014) and was born in New York City.

Entitled Gentrification of Birth, this artwork uses the visual tropes of advertising to describe the homogenization and commodification of the birth experience in the United States.

In a beige, sparse room, a stuffed giraffe is positioned close to a framed diptych of a mother giraffe and her newborn calf. The toy's gaze is focused on the artwork, its own image, distorted by its closer relationship to truth, reflected back. In contrast to the toy’s clean, sealed body, the photorealistic giraffe and her son are players in an abject scene, the mother still bleeding in her newly postpartum state. Her red blood has been replaced by a blue liquid, like that which is used in advertisements as a substitute for bodily fluids like urine or menses. The viscera offers the brightest color in the image: it is surrounded by the washed out, neutral tones of wood and rattan.

The aesthetic of objects depicted evokes recent trends in the parenting and birthing industry that map “natural” and “essential” affect onto the realities of parental consumption. The image additionally responds to a medical-industrial homogenization of the birth experience that eradicates the diversity of cultural values and haptic experiences of parents. 

The title of Beecher’s Gentrification of Birth is inspired by Sarah Schulman’s book The Gentrification of the Mind, which describes a gentrification mentality as one that “replaces complex realities with simplistic ones.” (p. 36) Beecher’s image suggests a concomitant gentrification of the most common and diverse bodily experiences.

This program is supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

Amy Beecher is an interdisciplinary artist living and working in Southern Vermont and New York City. Her performances and installations explore the intersections of visual art, popular culture, and lived experience. Her solo exhibitions, performances, and public programs have been hosted by Salve Regina University, Hesse Flatow Gallery, The International Center for Photography, Storm King Art Center, and Providence College Galleries, among others. Her residencies include those at the The Macdowell Colony, Shandaken Projects, and The Vermont Studio Center. Her work is in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art Library, The Smithsonian Institution, and Providence College. In 2020 she joined the faculty of Emerson College as an Assistant Professor of Visual Art and Media Studies.