Tuesday, October 19, 2010

An Exceptional Dinner Party...

When I was in grammar school, a man I knew explained to me that a woman's mind is shaped differently and that is why she does well in the home but not with originality. He asked me if I could name any famous women artists, composers, writers or musicians. At that time, I couldn't think of a one, but I knew instinctively that he was wrong.

Judy Chicago (nee Cohen) (1939-) may have felt similarly while in art school when she was told women were more suited to homemaking than art. Apparently, Chicago did not think that sounded right either.

Chicago searched for women in history who made contributions to society and the arts from the goddess figures to Georgia O'Keeffe. Using that time frame, Chicago created a 48-foot long (each side) triangular dinner table titled, "Dinner Party" (1974-1979) listing 1,038 women. Of these notable women, 999 were listed on the porcelain tiles and 39 had place settings on the table. Symbolism abounded in every aspect of this work which took about 200 volunteers to complete.

Each woman represented at the table reflected what arts women were allowed: a hand stitched table runner based on the type of female handwork in her particular era and a hand-painted china plate. There was also a chalice - ancient symbol of the womb. The triangular shape of the installation evoked the symbol of the eternal feminine.

There was a lot of controversy and criticism for this work and finding a permanent home became an issue. The installation finally found a home at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art.

Today, I could answer that long-ago question of women's contribution to society and the arts. I would not only include Chicago's list, but all those brave, courageous, contemporary women who shoulders I stand on. Do you have any modern-day sheros?


  1. When I think about the "sheros" I'd have to say my mom and grandmom. They were really my greatest influences. Len

  2. I have two women "sheros"... Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman Justice on the Supreme Court and
    Madeline Albright, first woman Secretary of State. In general, I admire the women who have pushed through and opened the doors for the next generation of women. Great article! Thanks, Joan

  3. My grandmother. Bess