Judy Chicago was one of the pioneers for the feminist art movement. Throughout her career she has been working to bring issues women are facing to the forefront of art world and get conversations for improvement going. Born in Chicago, she started taking art classes in preschool and continued to pursue them, eventually graduating from UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) with a Masters in painting and sculpture. In the Spring of 1970 she began teaching a women-only art class at Fresno State College which she referred to as the “Feminist Art Program”. A class-made up of 15 women-renovated an old theater as their studio where they performed and created activist works of art. In 1972 Chicago paired with Cal Arts to create Womanhouse in Hollywood, California. Another platform for creative ways to voice their societal concerns, Womanhouse received publicity and helped to push the feminist art movement forward. Despite her love for teaching, Chicago’s art was still her primary passion and she eventually left her faculty position to devote herself to creating.
Perhaps one of her best known projects is The Dinner Party (shown above). This massive triangular table consists of 39 place settings, each dedicated to an important woman in history. The place settings are themed to the contribution of the woman listed, and includes embroidered banners as well as ceramics. Along the tile floor below the table there are a series of 999 other names painted in gold. Inspired by a professor who claimed women never made historical contributions, this artwork confronts the viewer with proof of the falsity of his statement. It was conceived with the help of over 400 volunteers and still inspires people to create their own place settings of women they feel should be included in this honorary work. Through depictions of female genitalia in various forms, she takes what is commonly unspoken of (especially at its time of creation) and makes it unavoidable. This artwork promotes a sense of pride for women and showcases how much we have accomplished throughout time.
Detail images of various place settings for The Dinner Party:
Chicago has been involved in/created several other projects throughout her still blossoming career. Her next artwork, a dry ice installation, will be installed at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SF MoMA) on April 26th.