I have been reading The Flowering: The Autobiography of Judy Chicago and remember visiting The Dinner Party in 2017, as well as how I made the visit happen when I only had a few hours in New York. (I was returning from an Association for the Study of Women and Mythology Symposium held at Pendle Hill.) I remember taking the subway to Brooklyn Museum, bags in tow, before making my way back to The Moving Center New York for dance practice, then to the airport. But I did not remember how the ancestors had given me persistent, unmistakable signals about The Dinner Party until I reread the community letter I had sent the day after my visit.
During this phase, I was still in an early movement of birthing my PhD dissertation, and seeing this amazing installation art—ceramic, porcelain, textile, embroidery, text, weaving—nourished and awed me in more ways than one. I had several readers write to me after I sent that edition of the community letter about the impact DP had had on them and their work.
With this in mind, it is quite extraordinary to read in her autobiography how Judy Chicago became Judy Chicago: how she confronted—internally, at first—the norms that constituted being taken seriously as an artist; how she gradually came to make the connection between her own struggles with the struggles of other women artists across the ages to express their ways of being, doing, and seeing the world; how she gave herself permission to move out of forms and processes that would be validated by art-men; and how she created the frames of references that would make her work visible—through making, research, and teaching. In the first quarter of the book, this becoming is a core theme.
There were points in my reading during which I was struck by the resonances with some of my own path. For instance, the struggle to give myself permission to move out of the frames of reference I learned during my literary studies, where serious writing focuses on ‘form’ and not on the ‘content’; where focusing on ‘content’ compromises the art. Or giving myself permission not only to write 'slant' or conceptually, but also to write with 'sincerity.' Chicago's self-telling of how she came into her own is reminding me of all the ways one grows as an artist.
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