feminist • painter • sculptor • installation artist
Judy Chicago is a pioneer of the feminist art movement, which sought to reflect women’s experiences, supporting equality in the male-dominated art world. Chicago “could no longer pretend in [her] art that being a woman had no meaning.” Though not a Black Mountain College student, Chicago’s path was certainly smoothed by female BMC artists who came before her.
Chicago is most known for her 1979 multi-media installation, The Dinner Party, a visual response to the gross lack of documentation and imparting of women’s contributions in history. Chicago worked with more than 100 other female artisans to create the dinner table with 39 place settings dedicated to women of history and floor tiles naming 99 other women. The installation included ceramic painting and needlework, both historically seen as “women’s work” and shocked audiences with vaginal imagery used throughout.
Now on permanent display at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, The Dinner Party, though limited in its representation of women (no trans women and only 2 women of color have a place at the table), is still challenging to many for its use of female imagery, reliance on craft, and telling of women’s history.
Chicago continues creating art today, including The Birth Project which helps fund the work of Planned Parenthood.
Links for Further Exploration
- Artist website
- The Artsy Podcast, No. 67: How Judy Chicago Pioneered the First Feminist Art Program
- The Dinner Party exhibit at Brooklyn Museum (includes multiple resources)
- Video: The Dinner Party at BMC
- Video: Pussy Power: Judy Chicago
- PBS NewsHour: The Epic 40 Year Old Feminist Art Piece
- Birth Project exhibit brochure
Invitation to Creativity
Crafting safe space to create was important to Chicago’s studio ware-house, where many gathered to collaborate and “make.”
What do you need to feel safe enough to be open to creativity?
What does your creative “place setting” need to include to honor YOU as a person, and YOU as a creator?
Find a place, however small, that you can dedicate to your creative process. Gather words or images or objects to inspire you such that you can trust yourself and honor the experience you bring to your creative process.
During 10 days of the 2020 Lockdown, Black Mountain College Art Museum shared a digital online collaboration of 2 artists who created responses to the BMC digital archive. As part of this collaborate process, they asked the following questions:
“How can we create spaces for ourselves to make? Unplug the computer, take off our shoes, hide our phones! Set ourselves a simple task, don’t worry about the end result. Invite someone to join in, go outside, try not to talk, let it happen. For us, this is the beginning of a time of concentration, physical thinking, using eyes and hands as tools, and learning how materials perform.”