Meet: Judy Chicago

Updated: Aug 25

An artist icon, considered the worlds first “feminist artist”, or at the very least the first one to use and claim that verbiage.

Judy Chicago is by far my biggest hero and inspiration. From her colorful paintings, thought provoking ceramics and embroidery works, Chicago's art is bold, in your face, and offers a clear feminist message. What I find most exciting about her body of work, and the life she is leading, is how collaborative her process is. She uses her platform to hold space for other women in the arts. This includes paying homage to the forgotten women in art history, a common theme in her work, and hiring and working with other women and feminist artists. Something you rarely see in the art world. Its radical, badass, and such a huge inspiration.


By far, Judy's most famous work is 'The Dinner Party' (1974-79). This huge installation work, features 39 place settings for 39 important woman throughout art and history. Its a beautiful large scale work that honors the women who have come before, giving them an esteemed seat at the table. "The settings consist of embroidered runners, gold chalices and utensils, and china-painted porcelain plates with raised central motifs that are based on vulvar and butterfly forms and rendered in styles appropriate to the individual women being honored. The names of another 999 women are inscribed in gold on the white tile floor below the triangular table."- Brookland Museum


“Because men have a history, it is difficult for them to imagine what it is like to grow up without one, or the sense of personal expansion that comes from discovering that we women have a worthy heritage. Along with pride often comes rage – rage that one has been deprived of such a significant knowledge.”

― Judy Chicago


The work took five years to make, and had the help of over 400 people, "a testament to the power of feminist vision and artistic collaboration" -Dr. Jennie Klein. You can still see the installation today at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum.


My favorite artwork Chicago has done however, is maybe a bit lesser known. 'Womanhouse' (1972), which was an installation work that Chicago had her students at CalArts work on as part of the Feminist Art Program she founded.

This exhibition is an another fantastic example of Chicago using her platform to uplift and inspire the next generation of feminist artists. In order to get established in her art career, she had to hide any trace of her gender in her work. 'Womanhouse', was a exhibition that directly challenged the art scene in L.A. at the time, as the "the first openly Feminist art installation"-wo/manhouse2022


The installation transformed an abandoned house into a feminist art experience. My favorite piece in the exhibition is 'Nurturant Kitchen' by Robin Weltsch and 'Eggs to Breasts' by Vicki Hodgetts. (Pictured to the right)


'Womanhouse' was a very clear inspiration for my very first exhibition 'Vulva Kitchen' (2021). It's exciting to know that art truly does inform art. Although we as artists often want to claim the title of being truly original and ground breaking, I feel an immense sense of passion learning about artists who have come before me. Paving the way for even more controversial art, in the face of patriarchy.


I'll leave you with this amazing talk from Judy Chicago, as she dives deeper into 'Womanhouse' and the challenges it faced in its birth. I'm so honored to share some feminist art inspiration! Thanks for reading.

Sources and links:

https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/dinner_party

https://www.judychicago.com/gallery/the-dinner-party/dp-artwork/

https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-1010/post-minimalism/post-minimalism-sculpture/a/judy-chicago-the-dinner-party#:~:text=Five%20years%20in%20the%20making,feminist%20vision%20and%20artistic%20collaboration.