JUDY CHICAGO: A RETROSPECTIVE
 AT THE De YOUNG MUSEUM
By Iride Aparicio

Immolation Women and Smoke l972 California Desert Smoker Performande
Immolation Women and Smoke l972 California Desert Smoker Performance

Photos Courtesy: S.F. FAM museums

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- How do we define Art?  Webster's Dictionary defines it as: A skill acquired by experience study and observation. As one of the humanities, and as an occupation required knowledge and skill. By reading the definitions, we become aware that they do not mention beauty. But have you ever wonder, what is beautiful?  We do not think that beauty may be defined by one or even by a group of persons, because Beauty is a subjective experience which depends in the eye of the beholder, so, what is beautiful for one person, may not be beautiful for another one.

In our century, perhaps no other woman artist has used art more effectively as an intellectual puzzle than Judy Chicago, who, when we observe her paintings, her images shock us, her selection of colors, mystify us, her work, as presented on canvas made us may us wonder: What is she trying to tell us? .

Born in July 20, l939, in Chicago, Illinois, Judy Chicago is an Artist, author, educator, and intellectual woman, who turned feminist in l974 and after she did began directing her attention to women's history, in her most well-kwon painting, The Dinner Party.

The mixed media painting, was intended to be exhibited in a darkened Church-like room with a massive triangular table measuring 48 feet in each side with 39 place settings, each one individually lit, to give the viewer the effect of an altar, and with each setting dedicated to a prominent woman. Each elaborate setting has and embroidered runner on the table, that disparage the white china three-dimensional plates, which look like a procession of objects (women) raising from prehistory to the present, because the edge of the runners show to be embroidered with flowers and butterflies. the end of each runner, also included the name of the woman. There are 999 additional names of women in the painting, which are written in gold inscribed on the table's porcelain brick base. The setting on the table, show her utensils, a fork on a folded napkin and a knife and spoon on the right of slightly oval shape plate facing a golden a goblet. Because the colors of the tridimensional folds at the edge of the plates around an almond-shaped center, imitate a woman's vagina, the exhibition to many was disturbing.
The Dinner Party is the product of the volunteer labor of more than 400 people and often celebrated as a ground breaking work of the l970 feminist art.  But at the time, Chicago's work was criticized, as vulgar, and racist because she only included the names of a few women of color.

Since "The Dinner Party" (l974-l979) Artist Judy Chicago has been both celebrated and maligned for her art, which she used, from the beginning, to challenge men's concept of women, who, for years relegated them to cooking, cleaning house and bearing children. The images in Chicago' paintings, opened the women's minds and managed to make them realize that it is possible for women, like men, to pursue careers, to educate themselves, to set goals and even to achieve what they had never believed was possible for a girl. Those who visit the exhibition understand feminism, and study very carefully the over 200 paintings in Chicago's exhibit at the de Young museum in San Francisco, will be able to detect, in each one of them, a seed of Chicago's activism.

But to be able understand them, requires careful observation of its minute details, in our part. Interpretation. Familiarity with symbolism, and something about history related to the date the picture was painted. Because at the end, we will need to answer our own question of: "What is Chicago trying to tell me, with all those different figures in this pictures?

PAINTING

And answering our question is even more interesting when we attend the exhibition with a friend, observe the pictures together, and at the end discuss with each other our individual interpretations..

Birth hood
Birth hood
When others of her painting are less puzzling in their representation, more poetic and their message is more direct.

Driving the World to Destruction
Driving the World to Destruction

For Art lovers, her variety of pictures also allows them to discuss art rules:  Form, color, perspectives, effectiveness of medium, lighting effect, to name a few.

Judy Chicago on Fire
Judy Chicago on Fire

Because of the variety of subjects in her paintings, the way they were envisioned by the artist, and the way she presented them in each one of her pictures, we also could attend this exhibit just to enjoy her art, which is unique. As we admire the pictures, we could forget Chicago's personality, Her notions about gender, her feminism. and all the pre-conceived notions about JUDY CHICAGO, and analyze her technique. as a painter, her use of the vintage point, her perspective, her use of color, her use of media. And whether or not you like or dislike her art, accept the fact that Chicago used her Art, the medium she was most familiar with, not to paint pictures on a canvas but to paint pictures in our minds, that in time would transform our thinking about the roles of women in this universe. Her imagery, created a social change.

Visitors can reserve their tickets now at tickets.famsf.org

Ticket reservations are recommended for General Admission and Special Exhibitions. Effective August 3rd, 2021, masks are required indoors regardless of vaccination status. Please be advised, the de Young museum will be closing early on November 5th.