A Womb of Her Own (Eggcentric Lady of the Field)

Hand-Toned Gelatin Silver Print 

13 x 19 inches


This photograph marked the culmination of a three-month project in which I transformed my studio at Montclair State University into a mise-en-scene, every element of which I had created by hand or carefully curated. The “old” damask wallpaper was my own design; the pearls draped from my waist belonged to my mother; and the style of my (rented) costume was 14th Century. I intentionally included numerous modern elements -- like the air conditioner unit and plastic water bottles -- to increase the sense of anachronism, and, once the photo was developed, I purposefully stained it with tea to give it a feeling of age. I wanted a mix of styles and chronologies that would leave the viewer guessing. I don’t like to explain why. I myself, am a woman who has been a wife, mother, grandmother, and lifelong artist. I am not so easy to classify.

I was in my 50s when I began the MFA program at Montclair, and already held an undergraduate degree textile design, with an additional year in industrial design. Around my neck you will see a necklace that I made out of actual eggs wrapped in copper. The eggshells are fragile, the copper, strong, and, taken together, were a symbol for me of new beginnings -- specifically my decision to enter a graduate program in the competitive field of contemporary art where I knew that many of my colleagues and teachers would be much younger than myself.

I felt rather vulnerable, emerging from my studio after being sequestered for the three months it took me to complete this project. Today, the installation is long gone, and this photo is all that remains. Memories are like that. I hope that I will be remembered as an accomplished woman/artist, but how can I wish for something beyond my control? Here, I strove to stop time, and declare my status, at least for myself.  I am in a room of my Own, and I have Arrived.  

Monarch Butterfly Way Station

(terrarium bench]


6' l x 38” h x 22” w


Elm, hemlock (sourced from the artist’s property), glass test tubes, rubber plumbing-supply washers, live milkweed and various annual wildflower varietals attractive to butterflies


This verdant seating unit is conceived to meet both the needs of humans and butterflies, providing respite for both species; it can be sited in urban areas between Maine and Mexico (the known migration path of Monarchs). If employed extensively, it will considerably offset the depletion of the butterfly species, which currently is at risk of 40% depopulation due to human (corporate, agricultural, mono-visioned) intervention. 


We respectfully ask that humans refrain from pollinating while seated on the bench.

What Can Humans Do To Help Butterflies?

The ways in which we, as individuals, can stop the Monarch Butterfly Collapse are fourfold:


1) Create a waystation (like ours) that incorporates milkweed and other wildflower mixes to promote butterfly pollination and egg-laying 

2) Eat organic food (avoiding herbicide-sanctioned farming supports milkweed / habitats)

3) Don’t support over-developed areas (like shopping malls and other subdivisions where acreage is not butterfly/wildlife-friendly)

4) Buy FSC-Certified / legally harvested wood, or re-purpose old wood (illegal logging depletes butterfly habitats)


More About the Monarch

Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed (and numerous other wildflower annuals) and later, the larvae consume the milkweed itself. Today, the Monarch butterfly population, upon which we rely for pollination and other necessary ecological tasks is down 40% -- this, largely because of the diminishment of milkweed. Corporate non-organic farming practices support the vast deployment of herbicides (more than 88,000 tons per year) manufactured by Monsanto that contain glyphosate, a chemical that kills milkweed. Suburban lawns (i.e., overdevelopment), illegal logging practices, and climate change are also to blame.


This Waystation is one very actionable solution to bringing back the Monarch butterfly population. Once employed it can officially be certified by monarchwatch.org.



© 2020 Jamie Lehrhoff Levine. All Rights Reseved

© 2023 by EK. All rights reserved.

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