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Judy Chicago: The Dinner Party

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Anastasija Vujic

on 24 February 2016

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Transcript of Judy Chicago: The Dinner Party

Judy Chicago: The Dinner Party
Here is a brief description of the artist that I will be presenting about. Judy Chicago was born in 1939 and is an American feminist artist, educator, and intellectual whose career now spans five decades. As she was growing up she lived in a household where it was alive with blues and jazz music, talk of contemporary fiction, and political awareness of the rights of workers, African Americans, and women. The piece of her work that I'll be going into more detail expresses a lot about feminism and that is "The Dinner Party."
The Dinner Party is one of the most famous and inspiration pieces that everyone loved by Judy Chicago, not only people were influenced by her work but she was influenced by other artists. When Chicago began thinking of historical precedents for the table, she was drawn to "Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper", she explained, "I became amused by the notion of doing a sort of reinterpretation of that all-male event from the point of view of those who had traditionally been expected to prepare the food, then silently disappear from the picture or, in this case, from the picture plane." She began envisioning a reinterpretation of the canonical work with famous women as the honored guest. However way before she even thought of this piece and as she was growing up, Billy Al Bengston (a legendary artist on the West Coast) taught classes at her art school. Although Chicago never actually studied with him, she was influenced by his attention to craft and surface. This piece is so famous that tt has influenced the lives and work of thousands of people and has become the iconic example of how art can change the world, the expanded role for the artist in society and women’s freedom of expression
This piece "The Dinner Party" connections to Judy Chicago’s life experiences and the society in which she lived. because at the time period when she was growing up, in her household what was alive was the blues and jazz music, talk of contemporary fiction, and political awareness of the rights of workers, African Americans, and women. It was sometimes hard for her to find her place in the male-dominated art scene of Los Angeles, but she discovered the literature of the women’s movement emerging in the late 1960s with "something akin to existential relief." Her teaching and use of women’s history and the artistry of “women's crafts” revolved around her belief that “female experience could be construed to be every bit as central to the larger human condition as is the male.” In this immense piece is in many ways the perfect storm of second-wave feminism and modernism: it is lashed together by pride, fury, radiating labial forms and numerous female-identified crafts, most prominently painted ceramic plates and needlework. “Emotions,” begins with the claim that “in the history of art women have always dominated the representation of emotions,” an idea that seems almost as idiotic as the notion that men are better at science. As you can see through her works in art, Chicago expresses a lot about feminism and the rights of women because of the time period that she was growing up it was only just then when the society started to care about the rights of women but they started slowly. Even today there are some women in their society in parts of the world that are still fighting for their freedom/rights.
ack in the 1940's were very different compared to now, when Chicago was born and growing up there wasn't that much equality for women but as she was grown up so around the 1960's that's the women's voices were finally heard and the equality started to slowly begin. Women back then didn't do as much with their life because of what gender they were, like if some women did have job and the sane job as a man he would be paid more for the gender he was. Women were suppose to stay at home with the children, clean the house before her husband came and then when he came home comfort him. Some examples of what laws happened during the 1960's and beyond for the women equality, in the 1960’s in the U.S the Vietnam war was going on and there was more equality in races (power movements), as well as birth control pills approved. It was against the law to use contraceptive by a married law until 1965. In 1976 it illegal for a man to rape his wife and during wars especially from third-world countries women get raped by the people in their village and those people would feel guilty about it because they couldn’t help or stop them. To me this is the biggest one, in 1978 law proposed that you couldn’t fire an employment to a pregnant women and I think that would be so frustrating for the women back then because they couldn't have a job or go back to it for being pregnant and starting a family. As I said before, women’s right come out in procreation, health care (birth control), right to make decisions of their own bodies and as this was happening people would be making art, movies about the equality and women’s rights. Another example is Ana Mendieta’s charged earthwork/performance art is absent from the exhibition because the artist was born before 1960. Instead of Ana creating her work we have younger artists doing work similar to hers. Some, like Bernie Searle, take possession; others, like Iskra Dimitrova, offer tame indoor versions of Mendieta’s. Therefore women back then had a very hard life compared to now and that is great that there is more equality in the world but there is still some countries that need that equality. Everyone is spreading the word either through movement, film or and especially art.
The subject matter is 39 women are represented by place settings and another 999 names are inscribed in the Heritage Floor on which the table rests. Location of this piece is in the Brooklyn Museum where this a massive ceremonial banquet arranged in the shape of an open triangle (a symbol of equality). From the start, her aim was "to teach a society unversed in women's history something of the reality of our rich heritage." This piece was known as how others would have called it "a powerful icon for women's liberation and independence." This piece expressed feminism and how women's lives were in history and the circumstances against which they had to struggle for equity throughout history. The media, techniques and processes that she does use as I said before equilateral triangle table as reflecting the "goal of feminism, an equalized world also was a centered form recalling "one of the earliest symbols of the feminine." There was a use of weaving, embroidery, sewing, pottery, ceramic, textile and tapestry. The presentation format that Chicago used was first in the Entry banners where the uses of the banners were to welcome the visitors as they enter the larger room (main room). Then moving into the big room where the Place Setting is displayed on top of the equilateral triangle shaped dinner table with the 39 “guests of horror” and their chain plates that represents themselves, place mates with their names, cutlery and cup as well as it is presented in different time period throughout history.
The big gap in the center of the dinner table consists of the Heritage Floor made from equilateral triangle (equality) tiles, written on the tiles are the 999 women who were picked to contextualize the 39 women from the Place Settings and were of mythical and historical women of achievement. Overall Chicago presented her work as if you we actually attending a dinner party with an welcoming entrance (Entry Banner) and then the dinner table all set up with the plates and cutlery (Place Settings). What influenced Chicago to present this piece was "Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper," representing Christ at his last meal surrounded by his twelve disciples and what she said about this quote on quote, "I became amused by the notion of doing a sort of reinterpretation of that all-male event from the point of view of those who had traditionally been expected to prepare the food, then silently disappear from the picture or, in this case, from the picture plane."
When entered the different components to The Dinner Party you'll first encounter with the Entry Banner room containing six woven banners welcoming visitors to The Dinner Party. What inspired Chicago to use the technique of Renaissance pictorial weaving was when she discovered that women were prohibited from working on the high-warp looms. Each banner has a different style either with the colors or the design or what is woven into the banners are a series of phrases intended to convey Chicago's vision for a "equalized world", one in which women's history and perspectives are fully recognized and integrated into all aspects of human civilization. The phrases are: “And She Gathered All before Her, And She made for them A Sign to See, And lo They saw a Vision, From this day forth Like to like in All things, And then all that divided them merged, And then Everywhere was Eden Once again.”
Next after the Entry Banner welcoming we enter in the larger room where The dinner party takes place. What you see automatically is massive ceremonial banquet arranged in the shape of an open equilateral triangle which I said before is a symbol of equality. It being measured at forty-eight feet on each side of the table. The table is prepared with Place Settings for a total of 39 women that are the "guests of honors." Each setting consists of a gold ceramic chalice and utensils, a napkin with an embroidered edge, and a fourteen-inch china-painted plate with a central motif based on butterfly and vulvar forms (each plate has it’s own style for each women). The Place Setting is organized by wings (sides of the triangle) of the different time periods in history for these women. So in Wing One of the table, it begins in prehistory with the Primordial Goddess and continues chronologically with the development of Judaism; it then moves to early Greek societies to the Roman Empire, marking the decline in women's power, signified by Hypatia's place setting. Next in Wing Two it represents early Christianity through the Reformation, depicting women who signify early expressions of the fight for equal rights, from Marcella to Anna van Schurman. Finally in Wing Three it begins with Anne Hutchinson and addresses the American Revolution, Suffragism, and the movement toward women's increased individual creative expression, symbolized at last by Georgia O'Keeffe.
Then if you looking the dinner table has a gap in the middle which is done on purpose because that is the Heritage Floor. It is created by equilateral triangles tiles which provides both a structural and metaphorical support. Inscribed in the tiles with gold luster are the names of 999 mythical and historical women of achievement. They were selected to contextualize the 39 women represented in the place settings and to convey "how many women had struggled into prominence or been able to make their ideas known—sometimes in the face of overwhelming obstacles—only (like the women on the table) to have their hard-earned achievements marginalized or erased." Also how they picked the women was decided on by three criteria: did the woman make a worthwhile contribution to society; had she attempted to improve conditions for women; did her life/work exemplify a significant aspect of women's history or provide a role model for a more egalitarian society? The amount of time spend on doing only this section was about 2 years.
After leaving the main room you'll enter another room which the Heritage Panels and what they are is large-scale hand-colored photo-and-text collages that portray the lives of the mythical and historical women whose names are inscribed in the Heritage Floor of The Dinner Party. Hand-written on porcelain tiles, these names make up the physical and symbolic foundation for The Dinner Party. The names listed on the Heritage Panels are organized beneath their corresponding Place Setting. The 999 names of the women from the Heritage Floor are accompanied by biographical information, photographs of related art and artifacts, and images the women. As well as to contextualize the importance of their legacies, Chicago also included brief passages describing the circumstances against which women had to struggle for equity throughout history.
Finally we move into the Acknowledgment Panels and this is where Chicago wanted to present not herself but the many other people that helped her complete The Dinner Party. She first began creating the The Dinner Party alone then over the course of the few years, hundreds of volunteers helped the core staff of The Dinner Party studio to realize Chicago's vision. The group of people brought a variety of skills to the project including ceramics, needlework, fabrication, graphics, photography, and research, and worked together under Chicago's guidance to complete the piece. There are 129 members from the creative and administrative team with black-and-white photographs. The panels have each participant's name, occupation, residence, specific role and length of involvement in the project. Finally Chicago a brief summary of the experience by saying, "The studio gradually became a structure of self-sufficient groups working under my guidance while also building teamwork through shared responsibility and honest dialogue"
The materials/ techniques used to create The Dinner Party were weaving, china painting, embroidery, sewing, pottery, ceramic, textile, animal skins, leathers, metals, glass, shells, bone needles, carved wood, natural fibers, acrylic paints, and tapestry. From those materials Chicago then creates patterns. Like in the Entry Banners section there is usage of tapestries colors repeats the red, black, and gold tones associated with The Dinner Party and incorporate motifs found throughout the piece (triangular, floral, and abstracted butterfly forms). Then there is in the Heritage Floor with the tiles repeatedly fired with rainbow luster and with the gold luster used for the names. Chicago used composition especially in the Entry Banners section where the banners makes your eyes look at it whole, (top to bottom) because either of the arrangement of the text or of the usage of lines, shapes and colors that make you look through it all, in colors there is the sense of light vs. dark (yellow, white, red and black). There is also texture involved in the banners because they are woven which giving them the carpet type texture to it. In the Place Setting section the China plates from each woman is different from each other, the China plates have a lot of detail but some look and feel smooth, others bumpy. Then the plates are the plate mats have different materials of fabrics and furs so making it feel soft. Finally in the Heritage floor section the floor is made of tiles which meaning giving them a smooth feel and look shiny.
Chicago uses a lot decorative arts in this piece such as in the Entry Banner section, the banners are woven and as I said before she uses Renaissance pictorial weaving. In the Place Settings section "guests of honor" commemorated on the table are designated by means of intricately embroidered runners, each executed in a historically specific manner. Then in the Heritage Floor section the floor is inscribed in gold luster of the names of 999 mythical and historical women of achievement as well as textile to create the base of the floor. Text was also an important thing like in the Entry Banner's section there are a series of phrases intended to convey Chicago's vision for a equalized world, one in which women's history and perspectives are fully recognized and integrated into all aspects of human civilization. In the Place Settings section there is of course the names of the 39 women. Then in the Heritage Floor section there of the names of the 999 women who were selected to contextualize the 39 women. Finally in the Heritage Panels section has information of the women's biographical information, photographs of related art and artifacts, and images of many of the women also there is brief passages describing the circumstances against which women had to struggle for equity throughout history. Then finally Chicago use Narrative and Symbolism a lot throughout the piece, such as the usage of equilateral triangles either in tiles, or the table shape in the place setting and heritage floor to represent equality. Also the 39 women at the place setting and 999 at the heritage floor representing the different women in history and feminism, the circumstances against which women had to struggle for equity throughout history.
People started to use the same techniques as Chicago even when she was still in art school, despite creating works using the same techniques as her male peers and featuring similar imagery, reviews of her early pieces, such as 1964’s Car Hoods, singled out her art for being overtly sexual. With Miriam Schapiro as she was in an art school (California Institute of the Arts) it demonstrated an openly female point of view through collaborative art, Chicago helped to initiate a worldwide Feminist Art movement. As well as Chicago produced works focused on color and form that did not overtly address content. Several of these artworks, such as the sculpture Rainbow Pickett, were included in the influential Primary Structures exhibition in 1965.
There are many other artists that explore feminism not only Judy Chicago, but there was The guerrilla girls, Cindy Sherman, Jana Sterbak, Nancy Spero, Eva Hesse, Yoko Ono, and Louise Bourgeois. The ones I picked to talk in more detail will be The Guerrilla Girls, Cindy Sherman, and Nancy Spero. First off with The Guerrilla Girls, and what they think about the issue is, "the same people who say they are not feminists support feminist issues. We believe feminism is a fundamental way of looking at the world and recognizing that half of us are female and all of us should be equal. It's a fact of history that for centuries women have not had the rights and privileges of men and it's time for that to end." Next there is Cindy Sherman and how she expresses feminism is through photography. They are staged photographs that she takes, it's important that they're staged because we know that this is some sort of message embedded in them that she is trying to get across to us, especially with stereotypes of women. Finally there is Nancy Spero is regarded as a pioneer in feminist art whose work confronts social and political injustice with creative ingenuity, the War Series (1966-70), using sexual imagery to shock the viewer into recognizing the relationships between sex and power, war and obscenity. This early experiment developed into an innovative, wide-ranging, and enduring artistic practice that is unapologetically feminist, anarchic in spirit, and tenaciously political, a practice she continued well into her eighties.
Nationality and gender of Judy Chicago is very important in all her pieces especially this one in particular (The Dinner Party). It expresses the female gender and how their lives were in history and the circumstances against which women had to struggle for the right to speak and the equality in men. During her times of growing up the ethnicity was not heard and until the 1960’s but before those women had trouble in the workplace because of what race and gender they were. This would have been hard on “white” women being paid lower that a man but it was even worst for “colored” women being paid even lower than the “white” women. Different events has shaped her work from because of how she was growing up and what she heard/saw, for example in 1978 there was a law proposed that if a woman was pregnant you couldn’t fire her because of that. As well as how she organizes The Dinner Party was by different wings (time periods) of the women throughout history and what they have done about the fermium, and how they impacted on the world today. I think what helped her with the piece connecting to her life experiences is like how I said before she was growing up where there wasn’t that much equality in the women and when she finally was grown up that’s when the rights of women were taking place. When she was in art school it was somewhat hard for her to find her place because it was male-dominated. As well as when creating this piece she thought of “Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper”, and instead of having all males at the table there are all women and different from each other because of how they impacted on history. Basically she cared all about the rights of women and is shown in her work.
The Artist Herself: Judy Chicago
One Of The Banners In The Entry Banner Section, Where A Part Of A Quote That Chicago Picked Reads: "And Lo They Saw A Vision."
This Is One Out Of The 39 Women That Are The "Guests Of Honor" In The Place Setting Section. This is Emily Dickinson's Setting & She Was An American Poet (1830-1886)
This Is How The Tiled Floor Looked Like In the Heritage Floor Section Consisting Of The 999 Other Women That Connected With The "Guests Of Honor"
This Is A Poster From The 1940's That Expresses How Women Didn't Do A Man's Job & If They Did It Was Considered Shocking!
As Well In Around That Time African American People Started To Create Movements For Their Voices To Be Heard.
"Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper" That Inspired Chicago In The Creation Of The Dinner Table
Rainbow Pickett
Car Hoods
Cindy Sherman: In The Kitchen With Cindy
Nancy Spero: War Series
How Back In the 1940-60's Some Women Couldn't Have Because They Needed To Stay Home While The Men Worked
From This Quote You Are Able To See
How Female Rights Has Improved
In The 1960's That's When Women Rights
Movements Began
1960: Birth Control Pills Are Approved In The U.S
Powerful Poster Explaining How The Majority Of People In The 1960's Thought That Women Were Different Then Man & Were The Wives Meaning That They Had To Stay Home To Do The Female Work.
These are 2 videos that I picked to present the topic of Feminism. In the first video it explains about "The Dinner Party" by Judy Chicago and what she was trying to present to the audience as well as the outcome of this piece. In the second it talks about how women in modern society have changed the world with the ability of more rights compared to back in the 1960's where it was just the beginning for the women. Hopefully by watching these videos you will get a more better understanding of rights for women back then were very different to now.

Thanks For Watching
Full transcript