To mark International Women's Day (8th March), pupils studying Art History have been engaging with this year's theme #ChooseToChallenge by considering how and what female artists have chosen to challenge via their art. Here, Isabel Cutts (L6) considers 'The Dinner Party', an installation artwork by Judy Chicago.
Whilst sitting at a dinner party with her friends Judy Chicago was struck by the dominance of the male figures around the table. Men who controlled the conversation and dynamics of the group. This experience led Chicago to create The Dinner Party. A triangular table that consists of 39 place settings and an additional 999 names written on the floor. In total these 1,038 women, who are both real and mythical figures, were chosen for their integral yet forgotten parts in history. Each woman has an individual place setting that reflects their personal experiences and consists of an embroidered table runner, a chalice, silverware and a hand-painted porcelain plate which is shaped to reflect female genitalia. The plates also increase in three-dimensionality from prehistory to present along the sides of the table, to represent women rising. Women seated at the table include Artemisia Gentileschi and Georgia O’Keeffe.
The triangular shaped table reflects strength and aims to empower these women creating a community of female figures. Chicago is making a statement, by giving these women a seat at the table she is giving them back a place in history and rewriting the past. Women who may not have been accepted or acknowledged because of their gender. The materials used in this installation further add to Chicago’s message. The arts and craft nature of the fabric and ceramics may have previously been viewed as a lower form of creating art. In addition, the use of embroidery and stitching has historically been a process linked to women and the domestic setting. However, Chicago’s use of these materials and techniques elevates them to a much higher level in the art world with this installation being shown in the Brooklyn Museum. Included in the installation are a series of woven hanging banners with phrases that represent Chicago’s vision for a world where women’s opinions and history are represented, and equality is at the forefront.