The Daily Heller: Abortion Illustrated

Posted inThe Daily Heller

Carles García O’Dowd (born 1988 in Mallorca, Spain) is an illustrator, Fulbright Scholar and recent graduate of the School of Visual Arts MFA/Illustration as Visual Essay program. García O’Dowd is interested in art as a tool for social change and has worked on projects about plastic pollution, the tourism industry and human migration. In 2014 he spent two years working on “Projecte Uter,” a massive campaign focused on abortion rights in Spain. Garcia O’Dowd is a queer man who believes fighting the patriarchy is a necessity, not a choice.

In 2014, the Spanish government tried to bring in a ban on abortions, pushing laws back to the times of Franco’s fascist dictatorship. Huge mobilizations sprung up all over the country, alongside countless displays of solidarity all over the globe.

Some in Spain saw these new laws as a strategy to gain conservative votes. Others saw them as a mechanism to distract attention from massive budget cuts in public healthcare and education that the right had been perpetuating for decades.

García O’Dowd saw them as reason for creating a massive tableaux, the sum of many parts, designed to map the fear of losing reproductive freedom.

As García O’Dowd explains, “I teamed up with fellow artist Tonina Matamalas, and together we decided to deploy our drawing skills to the cause. In what became a two-year-long journey, we gathered stories from women, doctors, activists and intellectuals. The archaic bill was withdrawn midway through our work, when the politician who was pushing it resigned. But by that point in our research, we knew that what had happened in Spain represented only the surface of a much deeper problem rooted in our society, and that it needs to be fought with education, exchange and dialogue.”

The stories the artists gathered became huge mindmaps “that we transformed into drawings, which now exist as a single, huge illustration”—a 12-foot-high mobile mural—that merges art and activism, serving as an educational tool that offers a broad perspective and many points of access for engagement. “Our aim was to escape the reductive narratives of tweet wars and instagram clickbait, and provide a holistic approach to civic discourse: to foster constructive human interaction.”

Owing to the detailed enormity of the entire piece, it has been reproduced here in five parts:

The same rights they fought for in Spain in 2014 are now being stripped away in the U.S., and unfortunately Project Uter, its message and its capacity for public engagement is once again not only relevant, but critical.

“Storytellers have presented our giant, fabric portable mural more than 200 times across 15 countries, in schools, colleges, museums, libraries, community centers, art festivals, street fairs and more,” Garcia O’Dowd explains. “Our workshops guide audiences as they explore every concentrated inch of the image, illuminating the meaning and intention behind every line and symbol.

“Each of our events is shaped by our attendees: Everybody has a story. Project Uter offers a way for communities to deal with the complexity of those stories; as observers of art we are able to witness others, to see ourselves reflected and to imagine how things might look from another’s perspective. At this crucial time in history where these kinds of dialogues are more divided yet more necessary than ever, Project Uter has landed in the U.S. We’re ready to show, tell, witness and listen—are you?”

Click here to bring Project Uter to your event or organization.