3 Michele Pred handmade purses with abortion rights statements on them on a red and cream-colored background

How this feminist artist uses
art to fight for abortion rights

By Kathleen Morrison w/ Michele Pred
January 25, 2023

Feminist, artist, and activist Michele Pred joins Wisp in our fight for increased abortion access across the US. Michele is a Swedish-American conceptual artist whose practice includes sculpture, assemblage, and performance. Her work uncovers the cultural and political meaning behind everyday objects, with a concentration on feminist themes such as equal pay, reproductive rights, and personal security. In January 2023 she traveled with Wisp to the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, UT to create Abortion Is A Human Right on the 50th anniversary of Roe V Wade. This ephemeral drawing in the snow depicts the pills used in medication abortions.

However, Michele is best known for her Power of the Purse series. Featured in Vanity Fair Magazine, Style Magazine, Vogue.com, among others, and carried on the red carpet at the Oscars, these bags carry feminist messages that marry the powerful, politically-charged language of today's resistance with representations of women's modern economic power and the possibilities for change that come with it. We caught up with Michele to ask her about Power of the Purse and how she thinks about her work in the context of abortion in the current political moment.

What prompted you to begin your Power of the Purse series?

It started with wanting to create political artwork that was portable and I could share in the streets. I wanted to create a mobile, small-scale billboard that I could take anywhere. It is meant to provoke and evoke conversation. People come up to me and talk to me about the messages or nod, give me a thumbs up.

What do you hope to achieve with this series and what impact do you want to see?

It’s about sending political messages out on a national scale. It's an effective way of being an activist through fashion. People all over the country carry them. With the purses I can respond in real time to what's happening politically. I can create a purse within 24 hours of an event like Pussy Grabs Back in response to Trump. Currently I'm back to mostly concentrating on abortion rights. Equal pay is also a big focus, but abortion rights are so urgent right now.

What impact do you think art can have on women's healthcare and abortion care more broadly?

We're surrounded by art, we're stimulated by art. If you present a political message in a positive manner, I believe it can have a stronger effect. For example, “Pro Abortion” or “Abortion is Healthcare.”

How has your background and upbringing influenced your passion for feminist causes and particularly when it comes to health and healthcare policy?

I grew up in Berkeley, California in an extremely political family. So it's in my blood. My first form of activism was in the seventh grade. I came home from school and informed my dad that girls had to wear uniforms in PE and the boys didn’t. My father said, “Well, we're going to change that,” and we did by writing the principal and citing Title IX. It was such a huge, impactful lesson that I didn't realize until years and years later. I feel really lucky to have been brought up with activism from a young age.

Of all the bags you've made, do you have a favorite?

“Sisterhood is powerful” — we have to work together. So, in many ways, that's maybe the most important.

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