Judy Chicago & Author Jane F. Gerhard to Speak at Brooklyn Museum, 7/11

Judy Chicago & Author Jane F. Gerhard to Speak at Brooklyn Museum, 7/11

Artist Judy Chicago, the creator of the iconic feminist work of art The Dinner Party, which is on permanent view at the Brooklyn Museum, will speak with author Jane F. Gerhard about her new book that details the making and history of Chicago's monumental installation. The program at the Brooklyn Museum, scheduled for Thursday, July 11, at 6:30 p.m., will be moderated by Saisha Grayson, Assistant Curator of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art.

Through an exploration of this landmark work of art, Gerhard's book, The Dinner Party: Judy Chicago and the Power of Popular Feminism, 1970-2007, traces the broader feminist movement from its beginnings in activist groups to its emergence as a mainstream movement. Gerhard provides the first glimpse of the day-to-day activities in Chicago's studio, where men and women gathered to help the artist produce her monumental work. In detailing what followed--from the installation's 1979 opening at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, to its reception by the national media and the controversies it sparked among feminists and art critics, to its unconventional tour leading up to its place today as the focal point of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum--the book argues for The Dinner Party's worldwide impact and centrality in debates about feminism.

Widely regarded as the first epic feminist artwork, and one of the most famous works in the history of American art, Judy Chicago's monumental installation functions as a symbolic history of women in Western civilization. For the first two years of the project, which took more than five years to complete, the artist worked alone in her Santa Monica workshop conceiving and executing her extraordinary vision. The undertaking proved so ambitious, however, that eventually 400 women and men from all over the country became involved, volunteering their time--from a month to several years--to work on the installation. One of Chicago's aims was to end the ongoing cycle of omission in which women's achievements are repeatedly written out of the historical record--a cycle of repetition that results in generation after generation of women struggling for recognition and advancement that are too often quickly forgotten or erased again. Through the process of making and touring The Dinner Party, Chicago also helped forge a community of supporters dedicated to seeing women's history and culture recognized through this particular work of art.

Containing thirty-nine elaborate place settings carefully arranged along a massive triangular table, The Dinner Party honors the achievement of women over the millennia in craft forms associated with the domestic, or feminine, realm. Each table setting, unique to the woman whose life it honors, includes a hand-painted china plate, ceramic flatware, and chalice, and a napkin with an embroidered gold edge. The settings rest upon elaborately embroidered runners, executed in a variety of needlework styles and techniques taken from the periods in which these women lived.

The set dinner table stands on the Heritage Floor, made up of more than two thousand white luster-glazed triangular tiles, each inscribed in gold script with the name of one of the 999 women who have made a mark on history. In the installation at the Brooklyn Museum's Elizabeth A. Sackler Center, the Entry Banners, Heritage Panels, and an extensive online database dedicated to this iconic work help illustrate the contributions of these women and credit the many participants who made possible the realization ofThe Dinner Party.

Judy Chicago, whose name has become synonymous with feminist art, grew up in Chicago and later took the name of her hometown as her surname. She was educated in California, and her early work spanned several styles, including Minimalism, abstraction, and finally the evolution of a feminist art practice. In 2014, in celebration of the thirty-fifth anniversary of The Dinner Party and the artist's seventy-fifth birthday, there will be a number of events and exhibitions throughout the country, including an exhibition of Judy Chicago's early career, on view at the Brooklyn Museum April 4 through September 28.

Jane F. Gerhard is coauthor of Women and the Making of America and author of Desiring Revolution: Second-Wave Feminism and the Rewriting of American Sexual Thought, 1920 to1982.

Photo by Donald Woodman