a feminine perspective on Maslow's hierarchy of needs

During the past years of grad school, I’ve been exploring hierarchies and utopias; my role within both (unwitting participant? contributor? creator?); and what happens when upward progression is thwarted. With tongue-in-cheek, I’m designing wearable objects for women that explore the duality of our desire for growth, and our fear of it.

I’m knowingly skirting a line between art and design; between wanting to illuminate the issue and wanting to solve it. And so to help clarify, or maybe further obviate it (I'm still not sure about this), I’ve borrowed a philosophical framework to hang this exploration on: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

In the mid-fifties Abraham Maslow developed his theory of self-actualization, a process of healthy growth through a never-ending series of free choice situations in which we choose between the delights of safety and growth, dependence and independence, regression and progression, immaturity and maturity.


Maslow identified five levels of need that must be achieved, in order, to reach self-actualization starting with physiological needs and followed by safety, the need for belonging and love, self-esteem, and finally creative self-actualization, or self-development. 

Image from SimplePsychology.org

I’m fascinated with the objects we women employ to give us mastery over each level of need. I'm also interested in what happens when a lower-level need level such as shelter is suddenly missing; when a piece of the pyramid is cut out. Both will be illustrated in my SMFA thesis exhibition May 29-June 1 at Carroll and Sons