Sunday, October 26, 2008

Feminist Flashback #8

For some reason, all the previous Feminist Flasbacks have been video clips of one sort or another; that situation needs to be rectified. I am, after all, an art historian (sort of...but that's another story). So, Fourth Wave Feminism's Feminist Flashback for this week is Judy Chicago's (in)famous 1979 installation piece The Dinner Party:

The Dinner Party has inspired some controversy both within feminist art and in the more male-dominated art world. It was and continues to be an extremely popular piece (housed permanently now in the Brooklyn Museum of Art. However, it's been criticized by third wave feminists for its essentialism and lack of criticality (among other things).

Each plate, placed around the large triangular table central to the installation, is designed and crafted for a different woman from history. The installation includes not only the table, but also wall panels with historical descriptions of the women represented, floor tiles covered in the scripted names of hundreds of other women who were not given individual plates, and hanging tapestries with texts about the eternal unity of women. Each place-setting is elaborate, the ceramic plates carefully designed and crafted, and the tablecloths intricately embroidered to emphasize certain aspects of each woman’s life or accomplishments. The motifs for almost all of the designs are vaginal, emphasizing an identification of female sexuality with biological destiny (one of the factors that allowed deconstructivist feminists to denounce the work as essentialist).

For more information, and a contemporary feminist prospective, check out the April 2007 Washington Post article "Her Table Is Ready: Judy Chicago's 'Dinner Party' Is Still a Conversation Piece."

For more images and a virtual tour, you can check out the Brooklyn Museum's Dinner Party website.

No comments: