Judy Chicago Essay

Submitted By Jinwoong-Joung
Words: 1036
Pages: 5

Contemporary artist Judy Chicago is a historical fact checker. She has always been aware that the history of men, also termed world history, has viciously omitted acknowledgements of women’s paramount contributions. Beginning in the late 1960’s, her inquiry into the margins of history where women’s lives remain is a result of her desire to expose the truth of women’s shrouded experience, past and present. Women, for the most part, have been written out of history and the canon of art history. Their accomplishments, personalities, heroic stories, creative expressions, and struggles have been rendered irrelevant and secondary compared to the androcentric point of view that history, culture, and society has succumbed to. Through an art practice that is informed by these injustices, Chicago has created works and a paralleling iconography that serve to express women’s essence, experience, and aesthetics, as well as the burgeoning goals of Feminism in the 1970’s. This paper will discuss how sexual inequality had affected Judy’s life, view of value and her style of artworks by looking at historical and cultural background also other female artists at the time. Judy Chicago was born Judy Cohen in 1939 to two hardworking, non-practicing Jewish parents. Her father, a union organizer, cultivated a sense of assured intelligence in his daughter so that she could learn the art of articulating her beliefs and opinions. Her mother, a lover of the arts, encouraged Chicago’s interest in art-making and art history. In Chicago’s autobiography Beyond the Flower (1996) she reflects upon her active pursuit of opportunities for artistic involvement. During the span of her childhood, Chicago continuously took art classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. She recalls wandering through the art museum and marveling at the renowned and innovative works in the collection. She had a sharp eye for underlying structure and was able to engage with the paintings aesthetically. She notes, “As observant as I was, however, the one thing that I totally failed to notice was that nearly all of the art at the museum was by men. But even if I had noticed, I doubt that I would have been at all deterred from my own aspirations [to be an artist]” (Chicago 2). The predominating position that male artist hold not only within the museum but also within history would become a point of reference for Chicago later in her career. She relocated to Southern California and received B.A. in fine arts and humanities 1962 and MA in painting and sculpture in 1964 at UCLA (Chicago 5). During this time, she was creating art that was characterized by personally relevant subject matter and an expressive, metaphorical use of bodily forms. Paintings such as Mother Superette (fig.1, 1963) and Bigamy (fig.2, 1963) display organic forms relevant to her as a woman barely shadowed under the guise of abstraction. When confronted with the negative critique of creating “woman’s art” Chicago withdrew from personal/sexual “feminine” expressions and focused on the industrial sculpture. Artists such as Larry Bell led interest in formalism, minimalism, and works that were devoid of emotional content. Driven to be successful within this predominant style, Chicago enrolled into auto body school to learn how to spray paint, attended boat-building school to learn how to mold fiberglass, and apprenticed as a pyrotechnician to make firework displays. To further remove herself from the negative identification of a woman attempting to be an artist, Chicago felt pressured to convince the contemporary male artists working around her that she was serious and therefore unfeminine. Despite all of her efforts, she was continuously told that women couldn’t be artists and the respectable art that she created was given value based on how much it looked as if a man had made it. Chicago’s internalization of these criticisms created an awareness that would influence the future of her career: that her experience as