© by Beatriz Badikian-Gartler
|Judy Chicago was born Judy Cohen in the city she
later adopted as her namesake.
Her parents were involved in leftist politics, their house being the center for
political activity in the neighborhood. As a consequence Judy Chicago grew up
in a home filled with people of all races and a keen appreciation for human
values, regardless of color, religious affiliation, or gender. Her father was a union
organizer, and her mother worked outside the home, which gave Chicago a sense
that she could be and do what she wanted. Two older female cousins, both in
college and active intellectually, also provided psoitive role models for her.
Judy Chicago played a pioneering role in the feminist art movement of the
1970s, founding the nation's first feminist art education program in Fresno, the
Fresno Feminist Art Program, whose goal was to challenge the limitations placed
on women artists. The students develoepd traditionally "masculine" skills such
as negotiating business transactions and contstructing their own studio space.
Executed through the labor-intensive, traditionally feminine crafts of embroidery
and china painting, "The Dinner Party" represents a monumental homage
to women throughout history. It opened in 1979 in San Francisco at the Museum
of Modern Art and drew record-breaking crowds of mostly female viewers. It also
generated intense controversy among art critics and historians. With a team of
400 women and men, Chicago created thirty-nine handmade porcelain plates
representing dinner guests, women ranging from prehistoric goddesses to Georgia
O'Keefe. Each plate rested on a hand-embroidered runner executed in the needlework
style of the honored guest's historical period."