Womxn House Envisions Future for Artists, Gender on Detroit’s West Side

On Sunday, we stopped by Womxn House, an art gallery and residency on Detroit’s west side. Detroit artist, gallerist, and curator Asia Hamilton was partly inspired by Womanhouse, a 1972 art project produced by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro, among many others, which converted a house into an art space. Hamilton co-produced the project with Michigan designer and artist Laura Earle. We had been invited by Erin Gold, one of the artists (and a former roommate in Southwest Detroit), who produced a small art installation of feathers made of stained glass, which corresponded to a number of gold-painted tags hung on a wall.

“Sex toys” fashioned artfully in the shape of a histogram of the “glass ceiling index for working women,” a measurement of pay disparity across gender, at the Womxn House gallery on the west side of Detroit.

“The pandemic acted as a sort of accelerant,” Gold said, “pushing me to realize how many of my close relationships had to evolve– so many of my friends couldn’t travel, or had left the state. I’m someone who holds onto my relationships very tightly, so this was sort of an attempt to try and loosen that grip a little bit.”

Detroit artist Erin Gold’s feather installation at Womxn House.

Gold connected the feathers to her own personal journey with the grief of having lost her grandmother, with a further atmosphere of loss bounded by the COVID19 pandemic, and with each of the feathers representing a sort of attachment that we can let go of– and that can then become its own aesthetic artifact. The gold tags were a sort of crowdsourced project to friends and colleagues of things people wanted to let go of, and most of the feathers corresponded to specific color palettes identified with specific individuals. The notion of loss echoed throughout the rest of the house, ranging from an artistic commentary on a miscarriage to Hamilton’s own journey with loss, having tragically lost her mother to the pandemic.

Big West Side Energy: Womxn House in Detroit, the childhood home of native Detroiter artist and gallerist Asia Hamilton, who converted the house into an artist residency and gallery.

“It’s kind of a memorial, in a way,” Gold said of her installation. “Loss can be very beautiful, which, to me, felt like a very radical concept.”

Each room in the house had a specific art installation in it, ranging from an exhibit of mock sex toys made in the shape of a graph indicating pay disparities between women and men, or one room converted into a “womb,” draped with dark red velveteen sheets and permeated with the deep sound of a heartbeat.

“One of the most surprising things to me was how strongly people reacted to the womb room,” Gold said, laughing. “[Some people] were like, ‘I definitely do not need to go in there!’ I just thought it was so funny.”

The exhibits will be up through October 23rd, some time after which the Womxn House coordinators say the house will host resident artists.

Check out Womxn House Detroit, or Asia Hamilton’s Norwest Gallery of Art on Grand River Avenue. And be sure to ooh and ahh at the brand new bike lanes and pedestrian/bus islands that have narrowed the street from six thousand four hundred forty-two lanes to five.

Nat M. Zorach

Nat M. Zorach, AICP, MBA, is a city planner and energy professional based in Detroit, where he writes about infrastructure, sustainability, tech, and more. A native of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, he attended Grinnell College in Iowa, the Kogod School of Business at American University, the POCACITO transatlantic program, the SISE program at the University of Illinois Chicago, and he is also a StartingBloc Social Innovation Fellow. He enjoys long walks through historic, disinvested Rust Belt neighborhoods at sunset. (Nat's views and opinions are his own and do not represent those of his employer).

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