Updated: Nov 25
Judy Chicago’s The Creation from The Birth Project, 1984, modified Aubusson tapestry, 42" x 14', weaving by Audrey Cowan. Phot. by Donald Woodman, the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
Judy Chicago is celebrated for her innovative approach in art creation, championing an inclusive art world, particularly for women. She firmly believes in collaborative art to combat the historical isolation of women in the arts. Her most famous work, The Dinner Party, exemplifies this ethos, involving numerous artists to honor women's achievements. Installation features a triangular table set with symbolic place settings for 39 historical and mythical women - famous, like Virginia Woolf or Georgia O'Keeffe, and less known like Caroline Herschel - celebrating their reaching and challenging traditional patriarchal narratives in art history.
Volunteers in the needle workers' loft in Judy Chicago's Santa Monica, California studio during the creation of The Dinner Party, ca. 1977. Phot. by Lyn Jones. Judy Chicago Visual Archive, Betty Boyd Dettre Library & Research Center, National Museum of Women in the Arts. © Judy Chicago
Adrienne Weiss and Judy Chicago painting the Caroline Herschel runner mock-up (for The Dinner Party), 1978. Phot. Marry McNally © Judy Chicago
The Dinner Party (Caroline Herschel runner), 1974–79. Cotton/linen fabric, woven interface support material (horsehair, wool, and linen), cotton twill tape, silk, synthetic gold cord, wool, wool yarn, thread, 51 3/8'' × 30''. Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation, 2002.10. © Judy Chicago
Another significant project that highlights her method of using collaboration on the grand scale is The Birth Project, centered on birth and creation, executed over the period of 1980- 1985. To capture material for her art, Chicago sent questionnaires to women, asking for their experiences with childbirth. Using their responses, she created numerous images reflecting these diverse accounts. Chicago sought interested needleworkers willing to work on these canvases in their homes. She engaged needleworkers from various locations, spanning the United States, Canada, and so far away as New Zealand and guided them through correspondence and occasional review sessions.
The Birth Project resulted in numerous exhibition units featuring needlework, interconnected pieces, and accompanying documentary materials documenting the creative process. The project incorporated written documentation from participants, including excerpts from initial questionnaires and individual stories, which were integral to exhibition panels. These artworks extensively toured the United States and Canada before finding homes in multiple institutions with the support of the Through the Flower* organization. They remain publicly displayed and contribute to university curricula. The diverse childbirth experiences shared by women in The Birth Project are also showcased in the book of the same name, celebrating both the artistic creations and personal narratives.
Right now there is a great occasion to see Judy Chicago’s HERSTORY exhibition at the New Museum, NYC. More information below.
*Through the Flower was founded by Judy Chicago in 1978, dedicated to promoting women's art and cultural contributions and advocating for gender equality and inclusivity in the arts.
Birth Trinity Quilt from The Birth Project, quilt tapestry, 44’’ x 124’’. 1983 © Judy Chicago
Birth Power from The Birth Project, 1984. embroidery over drawing on silk, 20 1/4'' x 20 1/4''. Embroidery by Sandie Abel. Courtesy of the Artist, Through the Flower, and Salon 94, New York.
Birth Power from The Birth Project, 1984, embroidery over drawing on silk. Embroidery by Sandie Abel. 20.25'' x 20.25''. Collection of Through the Flower, Belen, New Mexico. Copyright Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo copyright Donald Woodman/ARS, New York. Courtesy the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco.
Logo from The Birth Project, 1984, embroidery, 11’’ x 8’’, embroidery by Pamela Nesbit. © Judy Chicago
Judy Chicago, born Judith Sylvia Cohen in 1939 in Chicago, is a pioneering feminist artist. She’s renowned for challenging traditional norms in art, advocating for gender equality, and creating thought-provoking, inclusive art. Her impact extends beyond art as an influential author and educator, reshaping the role of women in the art world.
Caroline Herschel (1750–1848) was a pioneering astronomer from Germany. Despite facing obstacles, she made significant discoveries in astronomy, including comets and nebulae. She was the first woman to be paid for her scientific work and received recognition for her astronomical achievements. Herschel's contributions advanced our understanding of the cosmos, and she was the first woman to be awarded a Gold Medal by the Royal Astronomical Society in 1828.
NOW ON VIEW IN NEW MUSEUM, NYC: