In response to a recent spree of statewide abortion bans in the U.S., Swedish-American artist Michele Pred got to work raising funds to display her pro-choice artwork on billboards in three different states.
Thus far, one billboard has been constructed in Saint Louis, Missouri, which reads, “Your Body, Your Business” in neon pink lights across a black vintage purse. The billboard is strategically placed along the westbound I-64, within 10 blocks of the last Missouri Planned Parenthood licensed to provide abortions. The clinic’s license is set to expire in August of this year.
Pred plans to plaster the same message on two subsequent billboards: one in Montgomery, Alabama, in August and another in Atlanta, Georgia, in September.
Missouri, Alabama and Georgia each passed laws effectively banning most abortion procedures in May. While Alabama’s law affected abortion in every stage of pregnancy, Missouri and Georgia passed “heartbeat bills” which apply after the eighth and sixth weeks of pregnancy, respectively.
“[Billboards] are viewed by such a large amount of people on a daily basis that I felt it was the most effective method,” Pred told Ms. “I believe that artwork replacing advertising is a way to encourage civic engagement.”
The art displayed on the billboard is a piece from her 2018 collection, “Power of the Purse,” in which she superimposed text formed of neon lights onto vintage purses from the mid-20th century, when social change was on the rise in every respect.
Pred received financial contributions for the billboards from projects+gallery in Saint Louis, which footed the bill for half the cost of the Missouri iteration. The gallery will additionally be sponsoring half of a second billboard once the current one is taken down. It will be located on the I-64 near downtown Saint Louis for one month. She raised the remaining funds for all three billboards within the first 16 days of a Kickstarter campaign.
Pred’s politics-inspired designs have also been featured in For Freedoms‘ 50 State Initiative billboard campaign, which encouraged voter participation leading up to the 2018 midterm elections. The campaign coincided with her solo exhibition titled “VOTE Feminist” at the Nancy Hoffman Gallery.
But while Pred’s art has tackled a variety of political subjects, much of her art has specifically targeted reproductive justice. For example, her solo exhibition at the Nancy Hoffman Gallery in 2015, titled “CHOICE,” utilized artistic expression to defend a woman’s right to choose. Five percent of the proceeds from the purses sold during the exhibition was donated to the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), and Pred continues to donate five percent of the purses’ proceeds to Planned Parenthood.
While her projects have been relevant for several different audiences, the intended audience of the Southern billboards is clear:
“My intended audience is for people who are opposed to abortion rights,” Pred explained to Ms. “Normally I include text like ‘My Body, My Business’ or ‘Pro Choice’ in my artwork; however I chose the text ‘Your Body Your Business’ to flip the script. My hope is that the text will ignite dialogue and new ideas around issues of body autonomy.”