Judy Chicago and How Her Art Helped Contribute to the Feminist Movement
Contemporary artist Judy Chicago is a historical fact checker. She has always been aware that the history of men, also termed world history, has viciously omitted acknowledgements of women’s paramount contributions. Beginning in the late 1960s, her inquiry into the margins of history where women’s lives remain is a result of her desire to expose the truth of women’s shrouded experience, past and present. Women, for the most part, have been written out of history and the canon of art history. Their accomplishments, personalities, heroic stories, creative expressions, and struggles have been rendered irrelevant and secondary compared to the Europhallocentric point of view that history, culture, and society has succumbed to. Through an art practice that is informed by these injustices, Chicago has created works and a paralleling iconography that serve to express women’s essence, experience, and aesthetics, as well as the burgeoning goals of Feminism in the 1970s
The installation Womanhouse encompassed an entire house in residential Hollywood organized by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro as the culmination of the Feminist Art Program (FAP) at California Institute for the Arts in 1972. The twenty-one all-female students first renovated the house, which had been previously marked for demolition, then installed site-specific art environments within the interior spaces that ranged from the sculptural figure of a woman trapped within a linen closet to the kitchen where walls and ceiling were covered with fried eggs that morphed into breasts. Many of the artists also created performances that took place within Womanhouse to further address the relationship between women and the home.
The project of seeking out women artists excluded from the canon has also encouraged a redefinition of art practices themselves, inviting us to rethink what we call the “decorative arts,” installation art, and performance art revolving around artists’ bodies. By encouraging scholars to seek out these forgotten women, the project continues on today. It is opening up beyond the Western canon to include women of colour from around the world, women who help us understand that there is no one “female art” but rather that art shapes and is shaped by culture, that it conveys cultural ideas about beauty, gender, and power, and that it can be a powerful tool to question issues of race, class, and identity.
Chicago, Judy. “The Dinner Party.” 1974-79. Photo. http://arthistory.about.com/od/from_exhibitions/ig/spring07/sp2007exh_03.htm. 30 Nov. 2009.
Chicago, Judy. “Menstruation Bathroom.” 1973. Photo. http://feministartrevolution.blogspot.com/2007/12/womanhouse-1973.html. 30 Nov.2009.
Chicago, Judy. “Rainbow Pickett.” 1965. Photo.http://www.lewallencontemporary.com/judychicago. 30 Nov. 2009.
Lucie-Smith, Edward. Movements in Art Since 1945. 1st Ed. Canada: Thames & Hudson World of Art, 2001.