“I wanted to see if women before me had encountered the same kind of challenges that I was facing, but I discovered that so much of what women had done—there was no record of it” these kinds of reflections were the starting point for Judy Chicago to create artworks which are still praised now, five decades later. Judy Chicago’s first and best-known artwork “The Dinner Party” was initially displayed in Brooklyn in 1979, and kept on being exhibited through the years in numerous countries.
She was born in Chicago in 1939, in a family who would always encourage her creativity and challenge her critical thinking: her father was a Marxist and during dinner tables he would speak of social injustice, including the young Chicago in all the debates. However, outside her family, it looked like the world was not ready to give a woman a voice in politics and a place in art. Judy Chicago was nevertheless able to get a scholarship to apply to UCLA art school. Once she was admitted, she realized that also her college, despite its innovative curricula, was still a heavily man-centered environment. The frustration that Chicago felt when she was praised as a talented artist who could “draw like a man” motivated her to create art that would instead do homage to women.
In “The Dinner Party” as well as in other Chicago’s works, the artist also realized the importance of a community in political action and in art’s creation. She started working on her first artwork alone, but was then joined by women and men experts in arts such as needlework, embroidery, ceramics: all techniques that she keeps on employing in her recent works. The “Dinner Party” is an epic work, consisting of a triangular table prepared for a dinner where the women of all history, including the ones in the myths, have a seat and are finally named, recognized and celebrate. The work is full of female symbolisms that have gone forgotten or changed in the interests of male history.
She remains true to herself, her signature style and motifs, while constantly updating, as attested by one of her most recent contributions for the Dior’s Runway Show in January 2020. Judy Chicago collaborated with the fashion brand’s creative director in order to raise awareness in an industry that often is based on minorities’ exploitation and unattainable standards for women. Judy Chicago is, aside the mother of Feminist Art, an excellent writer and art educator, as she developed the first Feminist Art Program at the California State University, Fresno.
We are deeply inspired by the endless creativity of this woman, the courage she had to challenge conventions and her involvement in the feminist cause!
Written by WAVE intern: Fabiola Adamo
Nadja Sayej. “Judy Chicago: ‘In the 1960s, I was the only visible woman artist'”. Available at: www.theguardian.com
Ellen Mara De Wachter. “Judy Chicago: the Fight for Gender Equality is Not Over”. Available at: www.frieze.com
Mattie Kahn. “Judy Chicago Never Wanted to Have It All”. Available at: www.glamour.com