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
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.
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.
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?
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