Woman’s genitalia as a social advocacy: The Artwork of Judy Chicago
When The Dinner Party (1974–79) was first premiered at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1979, the art installation was greeted with both amazement and shock by critics. During the exhibition, visitors were guided into a dimmed room paved with white tiles on which they could read the golden inscription of the names of 999 historical or mythical women of the western civilization. In the center, they found a massive triangular table with 39 place settings showcasing prominent women guests. Each theatrically-staged setting featured embroidered runners, eating utensils and an oversized vaginal ceramic plate.
The use of the female genitalia was not random. It was meant to de-eroticize and redefine the meanings associated with the female body in our patriarchal society. By doing so, Judy Chicago — the artist behind The Dinner Party — juxtaposes the glorified imagery of naked goddesses in ancient times with today’s denigration and censure surrounding the female body. She makes a direct connection between women empowerment and the need to forge a public arena in which female genitals are celebrated for their owner’s accomplishments instead of being objectified, vilified and forced to conceal by men. In the documentation of her work, she wrote:
“Beginning with prepatriarchal society, The Dinner Party demonstrates the development of goddess worship, which represents a time when women had social and political control (clearly reflected in the goddess imagery common to the early stages of almost every society in the world). The piece then suggests the gradual destruction of women by men, tracing the institutionalizing of that repression and women’s response to it.” (Chicago, 1999).
Chicago, Judy, and Edward Lucie-Smith. Women and Art: Contested Territory. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 1999. Print.
Gardner, Helen, and Fred S. Kleiner. Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: A Global History. , 2015. no. 14, pp. 921.
Weiss, Sasha. Judy Chicago, the Godmother. The New York Times, The New York Times, 7 Feb. 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/07/t-magazine/judy-chicago-dinner-party.html.