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Judy Chicago

Judy Chicago is an artist, author, feminist, educator and intellectual whose career now spans four decades. Renowned for the convention-shattering nature of her work, Chicago has served as pioneer for an enlarged definition of art, an expanded role for the artist, and a woman’s right to freedom of expression. Her seminal work, The Dinner Party (1974-79), is a monumental, collaboratively created, mixed-media tribute to women which in March 2007 will be installed in its new permanent home at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum. Chicago's art is exhibited frequently in the United States and internationally. Her ten books, published in several languages, have brought her art and philosophy to readers around the world.

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Judy Chicago

Projects

Minimalist Works

Prior to creating consciously feminist art and other work rich in content, Chicago made significant contributions to the direction and focus of Minimalism as part of the Los Angeles-based Finish Fetish movement. The geometric forms, meticulously applied finishes, and luminous, gradated hues of color in paintings, drawings and sculptural works she created between 1965 and 1973 also laid the aesthetic foundations for her own later work. Rainbow Pickett, first created in 1966 and later destroyed by the artist, was re-created in 2004 and served as the hallmark image for a major Minimalist retrospective held that year at LAMOCA.

Minimalist Works
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Early Feminist Works

In 1970 Chicago set out to create a Feminist Art practice that would give authentic voice to women’s experiences and affirm the ways in which women are and always have been key contributors to human society and culture. As an educator, she pioneered Feminist Art programs at California State University, Fresno, and the California Institute of the Arts. Her own art of the early ’70s ranges from bold representations to abstract symbols of Feminist identity, including the iconic “Through the Flower” image and others which evolved from her Minimalist work.

Early Feminist Works
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The Dinner Party

Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party elevates female achievement in Western history to a heroic scale traditionally reserved for men. The Dinner Party is a massive ceremonial banquet in art, laid on a triangular table measuring 48 feet on each side. Combining the glory of sacramental tradition with the intimate detail of a carefully orchestrated social gathering, the artist represents 39 "guests of honor" by individually symbolic, larger-than-life-size china-painted porcelain plates rising from intricate textiles draped completely over the tabletop. Each plate features an image based on the butterfly, symbolic of a vaginal central core. The runners name the 39 women and bear images drawn from each one's story.

The Dinner Party
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Birth Project

Prior to the Birth Project, few images of birth existed in Western art, a puzzling omission as birth is a central focus of many women's lives and a universal experience for all humanity, as everyone has been born. Seeking to fill this void in Western art, Judy Chicago created multiple images of birth to be realized through needlework, a visually rich medium which has been ignored or trivialized by the mainstream art community.

Birth Project
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Powerplay

The images of Powerplay are the result of a long and sometimes surprising process. In the autumn of 1982, Chicago visited Rome for the first time and was moved and inspired by the monumental scale and clarity of Renaissance painting. She decided to make a series of oil paintings in the classical tradition of the heroic nude but to do it her way, of course. The conscious adaptation of an historical style to a contemporary purpose reflects Chicago's post-modern mentality as an artist. She is aware of subverting the tradition upon which she has drawn, but is respectful of the skill and technique it requires.

Powerplay
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Holocaust Project: From Darkness into Light

The Holocaust Project: From Darkness Into Light is the collaborative vision of world-renowned artist Judy Chicago and her husband, distinguished photographer Donald Woodman. As a traveling exhibition it engaged viewers to think about their relationships with other people and to our planet as a whole. The project casts the Holocaust as an event that happened at the core of our civilization, the heart of our culture, and in the midst of societies resembling our own. It is a pivotal event for contemporary society and a reference point for exploring profound issues that relate to the human condition -- past, present and future.

Holocaust Project: From Darkness into Light
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Thinking About Trees

In the early 1990s Chicago made a series of drawings of trees. These drawings reflect the artist's keen observation and study of tree forms as well as her musings on the precarious ecological balance in which all beings on earth are intertwined. The anthropomorphic expressiveness of the trees in these drawings, as much as the text that often is included, translate into imagery the artist’s concern about human activities that appear to threaten all life on the planet

Thinking About Trees
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Voices from the Song of Songs

In 1999 Chicago created a suite of six illustrations to the Old Testament Song of Songs. Based on a translation by Marsha Falk that alternates between a man’s voice and a woman’s, the suite has been described by art historian Edward Lucie-Smith as “a celebration of ecstatic union.” The images and accompanying text were printed at Graphicstudio in Tampa, Florida, using a combination of heliorelief (a modern form of woodcut printing) and lithography. In diptych format, each image is paired with an ornamented excerpt from the Song of Songs in both Hebrew and English.

Voices from the Song of Songs
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Resolutions

Resolutions: A Stitch In Time is a series of painted and needleworked images created by Judy Chicago and a group of highly accomplished needleworkers, many of whom worked with Chicago on previous projects. Begun in 1994 with the intention of addressing the contemporary breakdown of social values, this project reinterprets traditional adages and proverbs for the future. In Resolutions, such age-old values as Family, Responsibility, Tolerance, Human Rights, Conservation, Hope and Change are cast in a multi-cultural and contemporary perspective.

Resolutions
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Fragments from the Delta of Venus

Inspired by Anaïs Nin’s book, Delta of Venus, Judy Chicago created nine erotic images as intaglio prints. Published by Flanders Press in a limited edition of 45, these images are available individually or in diptych format with the associated text. The full suite including text pages is also available as a limited edition set in a specially designed heart-shaped box.

Fragments from the Delta of Venus
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Kitty City: A Feline Book of Hours

The watercolors in this series were conceived by Chicago as a modern Book of Hours chronicling a day in the life of her household as viewed through the eyes of her six cats. In 2005, these illustrations were published as a book entitled Kitty City: A Feline Book of Hours. In conjunction with its release, Chicago worked with animal rescue agencies around the country to sponsor cat adoption days.

Kitty City: A Feline Book of Hours
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Chicago in Glass

Stretching the conventional boundaries of glass art in both subject matter and technique, Chicago’s glass oeuvre includes stained, etched, fused, cast and painted glass, all of which make use of the medium’s unique surface and light transmitting properties to add new dimensions to the expressive power of her iconoclastic art. Chicago's explorations in glass began when she chose to conclude the Holocaust Project: From Darkness into Light with a large, stained-glass installation titled Rainbow Shabbat because, as she said, “Light is Life.” More recently, the content of her glass work has been the power of hand gestures to convey meaning.

Chicago in Glass
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The Toby Heads

The Toby Heads, Judy Chicago's latest series in glass, bronze and china-painted porcelain, comprises portrait busts of Toby Shor, a model who inspired what the artist called "a meditation upon vulnerability, morality, and the power of the human spirit." Embracing and elevating the corporeal analogies and communicative abilities of media often associated with "women's work" in the "high art" hierarchy, the series alludes to the simultaneous strength and fragility of glass, extols the sustaining femininity of china-painted porcelain vessels, and re-examines the masculine associations of bronze. As art historian and curator Laura Addison has written, "Toby is a stand-in for all of humanity, the vessel that contains all of our notions of what it means to be human." In all, The Toby Heads embodies the fullest expression to date of Judy Chicago's simultaneously empowered and compassionate humanism.

The Toby Heads
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