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Five weeks is a long time to be away; still, Donald and I had a great trip to Europe where I had a number of exhibitions. I thought I'd share some of the highlights of our visits to London, Paris, Milan and Bilbao, Spain.
We spent almost two weeks there for two shows. The World Goes Pop at the Tate Modern was a new look at pop art and included three of my Car Hoods. Apparently, there were many unknown artists around the world who had used pop imagery for political critique, including a number of women artists who seemed to find the pop idiom appropriate to explore the use of the female body in art, advertising and popular culture. At the same time, I also had a solo show at Riflemaker Gallery, Star Cunts and Other Attractions, which featured work from the first two decades of my career.
By the time we left London, I'd done almost 20 interviews which was both exciting and exhausting. The most interesting of these was a conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist, curator of the Serpentine Gallery, who does an annual weekend-long 'marathon' during Frieze Week. This year's theme was transformation. As I have spent a great deal of my career trying to 'transform' the patriarchal paradigm, we had a lively dialogue.
The only part of the trip that wasn't work related was our three day celebration of Donald's 70th birthday in this most romantic of towns. When we arrived, our only plan was for his birthday dinner. Fortunately, there were some interesting exhibitions in town and we had the time to see them. Splendors and Miseries was a fascinating show on the history of prostitution at the Musee D'Orsay that included both painting and photography. We also saw a retrospective of Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun, the celebrated eighteenth century court painter whose production greatly exceeded that of almost any previous woman artist. Incredibly, this was her first retrospective in France.
In conjunction with the Milan World Expo, there were a number of major exhibitions including Arts and Foods, curated by the legendary curator, Germano Celant, whom I had met many years ago when he visited The Dinner Party studio in Santa Monica. His huge, meandering examination of the relationship between art and food included a series of my pen and ink plate studies and an Untitled Test Plate which are in the collection of Margaret and Dan Loeb. Although it was interesting, my major reason for going to Milan was to see The Great Mother, curated by Massimilano Gioni, which included In the Beginning, my (1982) thirty-two foot narrative drawing reinterpreting Genesis.
When I was working on this drawing as part of the Birth Project, there were very few known contemporary works on the subject of birth and motherhood. Art generally grows from art and the absence of images caused me to turn to direct experience for inspiration which means that I witnessed a birth, looked at many personal photos and films and interviewed dozens of women, hoping to introduce this subject into the art dialogue. I was stunned to discover that there is actually a wealth of work by women on this subject (though the show included many men as well). The research Gioni and his team compiled is astounding and also upsetting, because it exposes a different aspect of the erasure of women artists, that is the erasure of work of even well known women whose content lies outside what the male dominated art world has defined as important.
An outstanding example of an unknown work by a well-known woman is this amazing 1931 drawing by Meret Oppenheim expressing her personal conflicts about art and motherhood.
For the last two years, feminist curator Xabier Arakistain has been working on a major exhibition of my work that is, in his words, a narrative tale of my career. On October 9th, Why Not Judy Chicago? opened at the Azkuna Zentroa in Bilbao and will subsequently travel to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Bordeaux (CAPC) where it will open on March 9th, 2016. In conjunction with the exhibition, Xabier and his colleague, Lourdes Mendez, convened a two day seminar about my work that included presentations by British art writer, Edward Lucie-Smith; Andrew Perchuk, Deputy Director of the Getty Research Institute; Amelia Jones, art historian and curator of the 1996 exhibition at the UCLA Armand Hammer Museum, Sexual Politics: Judy Chicago's Dinner Party in Feminist Art History; and Jane Gerhard, historian of the 1970s and author of The Dinner Party: Judy Chicago and the Power of Popular Feminism.
The thesis of Xabier's show revolves around the notions of deficit and disobedience; that is, early in my career, I became aware of a deficit of information about women artists, women's history and images of female sexual agency. In order to counter this deficit, I had to become disobedient which meant disregarding conventions about gender and forging my own path. By organizing the exhibition around these themes, Xabier created an understandable narrative about my career that clarifies my reasons for combining artmaking, writing and teaching as part of my challenge to the institutional structure of art. His show is also an inquiry into the ongoing resistance to my work, exemplified by my absence from the collections of most major museums. This is manifested in the fact that only half the work is real; the other half is made up of full scale reproductions. Why? Because an exhibition of this scale would require the resources of a major museum and such venues have not supported my career, thus the questioning title.
Now that we're home, I'm back in the studio where I'm always happiest. In closing, let me wish everyone a happy holiday season and say that we all hope you will continue your support of Through the Flower.
With warm regards to all our friends and supporters.
Why Not Judy Chicago?: Reflections
by Barbara I. Dewey, Dean of University Libraries & Scholarly Communications, Penn State University
I was fortunate to attend the opening of the groundbreaking exhibition Why Not Judy Chicago? held at the Azkuna Zentroa in Bilbao, Spain. The exhibition and surrounding events were done in collaboration with the Musee d'art Contemporain de Bordeaux and Penn State University October 8-10, 2015. The exhibition, covering more than 50 years of Chicago's work, was brilliantly curated by Xabier Arakistain.
In Why Not Judy Chicago? I was struck by the way Arakistain balanced the meaning and impact of individual works with a sense of comprehensive understanding of the totality of the works. The title of the show, itself, tries to answer the question of why THE legendary pioneer of feminist art has not been recognized by the mainstream art world until now. Arakistain organized Chicago's work around the main conceptual, visual and political questions raised by Judy Chicago regarding art institutions and patriarchy. I found myself going through the exhibition "in order," "backwards," and by individual works to comprehend its meaning to me as a decades-long follower of Chicago's work.
In addition to attending the opening of Why Not Judy Chicago? and accompanying symposium I also attended a meeting with international collaborators to discuss an emerging international collaboration called "Art and Culture, Feminist Knowledge Network."
Xabier Arakistain conducted a conversation with Judy Chicago kicking off the seminar, "Feminist Perspectives in Artistic Productions and Theories of Art." Conducted in Spanish and English the conversation covered many aspects of Judy's art, pedagogy, and life experience. Her discussions of deficiencies, at best, and complete erasure, at worse, of the feminist experience resonated with my own experiences and thinking over time (and still to this day).
The culminating event was the seminar "Feminist Perspectives in Artistic Productions and Theories of Art" co-organized by Xabier Arakistain and Lourdes Mendez. The seminar featured important talks on feminist art and Judy Chicago. Andrew Perchuk, Deputy Director, The Getty Research Institute placed Judy Chicago's earlier work (such as Car Hood) in the context of pop art that was occurring at the time in Los Angeles, mainly by male artists. Jane F. Gerhard, noted scholar and writer, provided an in depth analysis of Judy Chicago's iconic work, The Dinner Party, and talked about her book of the same name. Amelia Jones, the Robert A. Day Professor in Art and Design and Vice-Dean of Critical Studies, USC, discussed the history of feminism and, especially the "2nd wave" including Judy Chicago. Edward Lucie-Smith, internationally known art critic and historian, wrote the 2000 biography, Judy Chicago. He asserts that she plays a central role, not only in the narrative of feminist art, but also in the story of 20th and 21st century American Art. The seminar was also enriched with commentary by Judy Chicago, Xabier Arakistain, and Lourdes Mendez as well as an incredible array of questions from an audience of different generations.
In summary, attending Why Not Judy Chicago? and events surrounding it was a tremendous opportunity to focus, not only on Chicago's work, but also on how the institution of "library" can erase the deficit of feminist art and knowledge and preserve this erasure forever. I look forward to future collaborations and projects to that end.
The Judy Chicago Art Education Collection at Penn State, Beginning Year Four
by Karen Keifer-Boyd, Ph.D., Professor of Art Education & Women's Studies, Penn State University
In our fourth year with The Judy Chicago Art Education at Penn State, we have added the third installation of videos, resources, and question prompts to a four-part series of the Judy Chicago Dialogue Portal. What About Men? Part III of the Portal features and is inspired by the 2014 symposium talks at Penn State by photographer Donald Woodman and Andrew Perchuk, deputy director of the Getty Research Institute. This part addresses the often contentious subject of men in a feminist environment and takes up some of the challenges of making institutional changes in terms of curriculum.
The Judy Chicago Art Education Collection at Penn State continues to inspire researchers and educators in many ways. Angelique Szymanek from upstate New York, a 2015 recipient of an award sponsored by the Special Collections Library to travel to Penn State to research the Collection, focused her research on the relationship between feminist art production and the anti-rape movement in the US throughout the 1970s. Chicago's feminist pedagogy, she claims, was one of the conditions of possibility for the artistic engagement with the subject of rape during this time. Her presentations on this led to a lively and varied perspective discussion with the students. Leslie Sotomayer used the Special Collections archive and the embedded videos with her class, assigning students to continue researching the Collection and to choose one piece to write a critical analysis/reflection of the feminist art piece, bridging connections to the present. Her reflections from the field can be found here.
The Collection also inspires research by visitors from outside the US. A professor from Beijing Normal University, Yuxi Chen, is a full year visiting scholar at Penn State in 2015-16, who came to research Judy Chicago's teaching methodology, working with the archive to bring back to the context of China art education. She is particularly interested in Chinese art students bringing their life experiences and ideas into their art in such a way that they move beyond the personal and into a larger frame of reference, and is studying the archives to learn Chicago's approach for how to do this. Recently, two curators from Cuba, visited the archives to examine Womanhouse, also part of the Collection.
Behind the scenes, Yen-Ju Lin preserves and protects the Judy Chicago Art Education Collection website with installing "Brute Force Login Protection", a software to "block out brute force attacks." This is the language of today's digital world and women, such as Yen-Ju Lin, have learned how to stop attacks to feminist art education, allowing the Collection site to grow with "From the Field Reflections," and from annual updates of award-winning curriculum of the Judy Chicago Art Education Award, dialogue in the Dialogue Portal, and news updates.
Double Holiday Gift for Yourself or a Friend
To celebrate the holiday season, we are offering a double holiday gift at a special price of $49.95. This is your opportunity to experience through print and DVDs a wide range of Judy Chicago's early work plus her personal tour of The Dinner Party.
Deflowered, an oversized hard cover catalogue with text and over 80 color illustrations, features her early works from 1961 – 1973, and also includes a DVD with three of her Atmosphere pieces.
The newly remastered DVD, Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party: A Tour of the Exhibition, shows this work through Judy's eyes, with a new introduction and conclusion added in 2015.
Through December 31, 2015 only, we are offering these two items together at the special price of $49.95 for both, including Judy's personal autograph and shipping within the continental US. Click here to purchase this double holiday gift offer.