Judy Chicago: Roots of The Dinner Party; History in the Making

Salon 94. Apr. 2019. 208p. ed. by David Colman. ISBN 9780977880713. pap. $50. FINE ARTS
In the late 1960s, fresh from graduate school, artist Chicago was struggling in the male-dominated Los Angeles art scene. Energized by the growing women’s movement, she created The Dinner Party, a reinterpretation/installation of The Last Supper from the point of view of “those who have done the cooking throughout history”: women. Working alone at first, she conceived of an equilateral triangle consisting of 39 place settings with hand-painted, hand-fired china or pottery plates on hand-sewn runners using needlework of dozens of varieties, each devoted to a notable historical figure, from Ajysyt, the Siberian goddess of birth, to Mary Wollstonecraft, Emily Dickinson, and Golda Meir. On the ceramic tile “Heritage Floor,” inside the triangle, were handwritten names of 999 more women of accomplishment through the ages. From 1974 to 1979, hundreds of volunteers, mostly women (many pictured and named in this book), helped complete the work. Since then, it has been exhibited in the United States, Europe, and the UK, then stored away for 12 years. Since 2007, it has been installed in its permanent home in the Brooklyn Museum, whose recent exhibit of the roots of the project form the basis of this book, edited by artist Colman, with contributions from Brooklyn Museum curators Anne Pasternak and Carmen Hermo, and Salon 94 gallery founder Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn.
VERDICT Art enthusiasts interested in postmodernism and women’s studies will delight in this consciousness-raising tribute to a watershed work.
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