Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Judy Chicago's "The Dinner Party"

Judy Chicago, "The Dinner Party," 1974-79
Ceramic, porcelain, textile, 576 x 576 in. (1463 x 1463 cm)

Though a bit older, Judy Chicago's feminist piece truly captures the essence of contemporary art. The piece entitled "The Dinner Party" depicts 39 table settings on a triangular table (13 on each side) with each denoting a different notable female who has made advancements for women's rights. The table settings offer a table cloth embroidered with the woman's name, as well as a ceramic plate, a gold chalice, and utensils. The plates illustrate images reminiscent of the female genitalia and butterflies. Each setting is designed in the likelihood of the woman it commemorates. Inside the table, on a porcelain floor, are the names of 999 women etched in gold. In total, 1038 woman are commemorated through this installation ranging from goddesses, like Aphrodite, to literary heroes, like Virginia Woolf. 

I find the piece fascinating, not only through the grandeur of its size, but also by the richness of its "shock" value. It's not overwhelming, but its powerful. Each plate and each table setting is strategically designed, intricately constructed to relate, symbolically, to the woman it denotes. Whether intentional or not, I also find Chicago's use of numbers interesting. With 39 women distributed evenly on each side of the triangle, a shape making a "V" in every direction, there are 13 women on each side. The number 13 correlates with the cycle of a year through the moon, a feminine symbol; if the months of the year were to be based off of the moon and not the sun, there would be 13 months for its 13 cycles. 

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