Judy Chicago




In 1970, Chicago decided to teach full-time at Fresno State College, hoping to teach women the skills needed to express the female perspective in their work.[15] At Fresno, she planned a class that would consist only of women, and she would teach the fifteen students off campus to escape "the presence and hence, the expectations of men."[16] It was at this time when Chicago would coin the term "feminist art"[17] and the class would be the first feminist art program in the United States.[13] Chicago is considered on of the "first-generation feminist artists," a group that also includes Mary Beth Edelson, Carolee Schneeman, and Rachel Rosenthal. They were part of the Feminist art movement in Europe and the United States in the early 1970s to develop feminist writing and art.[18]

Chicago went on to become a teacher at the California Institute for the Arts, and was a leader for the Feminist Art Program. In 1972, the program created Womanhouse, alongside Miriam Schapiro, which was the first art exhibition space to display a female point of view in art.[13] Chicago co-founded the Woman's Building in 1973.[19] This housed the Feminist Studio Workshop which allowed women to explore their artistic abilities and the meaning of being a woman through art.[11] During this period, Chicago began creating spray-painted canvas, primarily abstract, with geometric forms on them. These works evolved, using the same medium, to become more centered around the meaning of the "feminine". Chicago would find heavy influence in the writing of Gerda Lerner. In Lerner's writings, Chicago became aware of Lerner's teachings that women who continued to be unaware and ignorant of women's history, would continue to struggle independently and collectively.[13]

In 1975, Chicago's first book, Through the Flower, was published; it "chronicled her struggles to find her own identity as a woman artist."[9]

Chicago decided to take Lerner's lesson to heart, and took action to teach women about their history. This action would become Chicago's masterpiece work, The Dinner Party, now in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum.[20] It took her five years and cost about $250,000 to complete.[6] First, Chicago conceived the project in her Santa Monica studio: a large triangle, which measures 48-feet by 43-feet by 36-feet, consisting of 39 place settings.[13] Each place setting commemorates a historical or mythical female figure, such as artists, goddesses, activists and martyrs. The project came into fruition with the assistance of over 400 people, mainly women, who volunteered to assist in needlework, creating sculptures and other aspects of the process.[21]



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