Photos from the Brooklyn Museum of Art I recently visited. The piece is entitled, "The Dinner Party" and is by the artist Judy Chicago. The work features table settings for many of the women throughout history who have contributed to the movement for women's equality and rights. They are featured in the 4th floor exhibit of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art and established through the generosity of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation. You can follow a link to the museum's website for more information http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/dinner_party/
I did a little research including reading the artist's 1979 publication, The Dinner Party: A Symbol of Our Heritage, which details an explanation of the work and the actual production of it. The following are some of the basic elements of the pieces symbolism and creation.
The piece is nearly as large as the main floor of most people's homes. The work took 5 years to produce and the artist’s studio, for all intents and purposes, became a community studio with multitudes of people assisting in production and research. The china plates alone took 3 years to produce. Her team's schedule seems to have been china production and painting in the morning, needlework in the afternoon, and research in the evening.
One thing I found interesting from her "diary" of this time period was her decision to make and embroider the placemats, a decision which was not only pragmatic because of the difficulty associated with trying to embroider a 30 foot long table cloth in a circular pattern, but also symbolic. In the Middle Ages embroidery of emblems upon clothing and items was a sign of power, worn and used by church officials and rulers. These placemats would honor the female tradition of producing these symbols and also would themselves resemble the "fair linen" which is used to cover the plate during the Eucharist.
Judy said of the 39 guests, actual and mythological, which she invited:
"I've invited these women together to dinner in order that we might hear what they have to say and see the range of our heritage, a heritage we have not yet had an opportunity to know".
The 999 names on the table cloth were painstakingly researched and choices made based on the following conditions:
1) Did the women make substantial contribution to society?
2) Did they attempt to improve conditions for women?
3) Did their lives illuminate an aspect of women's experience or provide a model for the future?
The piece was moving and very rich with detail, beauty, and significance.