Artist Attack! Judy Chicago Invites You to the Dinner Party

Art Attack Month:

0. 1/28/2012 – Art Attack Call for Submissions, by Riese
1. 2/1/2012 – Art Attack Gallery: 100 Queer Woman Artists In Your Face, by The Team
2. 2/3/2012 – Judy Chicago, by Lindsay

 

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The thing that drew me to Judy Chicago in the first place was her name. If she invoked the name of the Greatest City in the World* in her artistic identity, she had to be alright, right? I looked into her work, intrigued by that what we had in common: our ties to the Windy City, our Jewish identities, our identities as feminists. And then, there’s her art, which gives me feelings for the reasons listed above but also simply because they are amazing. Judy Chicago makes jaw-dropping, multi-disciplinary artworks that generate serious questions about identity, womanhood, history and how to seize your place in it.

Image via The Brooklyn Museum

There’s one Judy Chicago work in particular I want to talk about, and that is The Dinner Party, her riff on everyone’s favorite hypothetical, ‘if you could invite anyone, living or dead, to a dinner party, who would it be and why?’ In her version, the table is set for 39 great women, goddesses and suffragettes, queens and revolutionaries. Sacajawea is there, as is Sojourner Truth, and Sappho, and Hatshepsut, and Georgia O’Keefe (appropriately enough with the latter, many of the plates at the place settings invoke the shape and form of the vagina, so there’s that). On the tile below, the Heritage Floor, depicting the names of 999 more influential women throughout history, from Abigail Adams to Helen of Troy to Willa Cather and Xochitl and Zora Neale Hurston. It’s a brilliant notion, isn’t it? To look down at your feet and see a spreading field of names, a sea of reminders of the ways in which great women have influenced and will continue to influence the course of history, a reminder that you, too, have the potential within you to earn a place alongside them.

Image via The Brooklyn Museum

It’s also worth noting that 129 artists put together The Dinner Party, and that it was a mixed-gender operation. That’s how many people believed in this project and wanted to see it come alive, and you can too at its current home in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art.

It should be noted that not everybody loved The Dinner Party when it was first unveiled in 1979. Maureen Mullarkey called it “preachy” and suggested it was disrespectful to the women it depicted, NYT art critic Hilton Kramer called it “failed art,” and some conservative white dudes naturally balked because ew, vaginas. But above all, it was successful because it did everything good art should do. It started a conversation. And it started a conversation about women, and how they are depicted and perceived and how we can change that. And hopefully, it’s a conversation that’s still going today.

And I’d like to pose a question to the group, in honor of Judy Chicago and her project: if you could arrange your own dinner party of famous female-identified folks throughout history, who would you invite?

*Fact.

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20something, Midwesterner, writer, travel junkie and occasional game show contestant.

Lindsay has written 26 articles for us.

12 Comments

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    There’s an article in an art journal from the 1980s written by one of the women employed to actually sew many of the pieces for the Dinner Party. Those women worked in sweatshop-like conditions.

    Judy Chicago said this as the 2000 Smith College Commencement Speaker:
    “I believe that one of the pernicious lies that has been told to your generation is that one can ‘have it all.’ Although I can’t explain how I knew it, I always knew that this was not possible. [When] I looked to history, I discovered that those women who had achieved at the level at which I had set my sights had been childless and those that were not had suffered constant guilt at not being able to meet the demands of both their work and their children.”

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    Ada Lovelace, Hilary Clinton, Dolly Madison, Julia Serano, Morgan M. Page, and Bjork. Really just a random smattering of people I’d love to sit down and pick their brains on various interests of mine…

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    I would love to have Ellen, Robin Quivers, Roseanne Barr, and Alanis Morissette together at the same table. Soo many questions!

    Hadn’t heard of this project before, but I’m definitely going to look into it more because I think it’s fabulous!! Thanks

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    Chicago really is the Greatest City. I was born & spent half my childhood there before my family moved to California.

    I shall stop for a genuine deep-dish pizza on my way to New York to see this someday. I’ve heard of this installation but had no idea the scope of women it honors! Thanks for sharing!

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    I went to see the Dinner Party in Oct 2011, it was really inspirational. I am confused by people who don’t rate Judy Chicago as an artist or a feminist – where does it say that artists/people have to be inhumanly perfect all the bloody time? Why do we hold other women to these insane standards? I don’t think anyone should knock it until they’ve been to see it. Now if I was having a DP, I think…. Colette, Catherine the Great, my previous boss Dr Gillian Tober, Catherine Hakim, Cordelia Fine and composer Ethel Smyth (who I’d never heard of before seeing the Dinner Party and who was beyond awesome).

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    How strange, I definitely saw a glimpse of this while I was in Brooklyn in January but didn’t think to actually look at it (there was a huge Out and Proud event at the museum that night, I was a little distracted!). Now I’m super bummed…

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