After researching different historical women who have influenced feminism or who’ve believed in feminist values, my class and I took a trip to see Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party at the Brooklyn Museum. The first thing I noticed were the biblical references – there were Bible quotes leading to the installation; these words were revised so that they spoke about women and feminism and The Dinner Party table itself was arranged like the Last Supper (even with 13 people on each side of the table).
I believe that Judy Chicago created the piece in this way because our entire past, including the Bible, is so focused on men – its history – but with this creation, it’s now her story; women, not men, are the main focus. The table is set up for “a panoply of the greatest female figures, mythological, historical, fictional – all of whom were crucified by the face of their sex;” they too are important, legendary, and knowledgeable says Gail Levin in her 2007 biography of Judy Chicago. The art represents women and has been created by women; the entire display promotes sisterhood and unity with its triangular table where everyone is equal and no one woman is more prominent than any other. In other words, the exhibit is genius.
I spent most of my time admiring Theodora’s plate – the Byzantine empress who’s “intelligence and courage helped save and advance the Byzantine Empire” and support its women. Her plate, along with the plates of the women beside her (Saint Bridget, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella d’Este) looked very imperial and regal, perhaps representing her position of power in her community. I could see stone arches and curtains on the plate; it had a majestic feel to it, but it also had a bit of vaginal imagery. In fact, nearly all of the plates had some sort of allusion to vaginas, solely because this was important to the feminist artists who helped create the piece. Using a part of their body that was considered ‘dirty’ in order to create beautiful art was, in a way, a reclamation of their bodies which they took advantage of while working on the table.
The installation features women from pre-history, the Roman Empire, the Reformation up until the 1970’s in the US; as the time progressed, the rebellion and radicalism progressed as well and the plates evolved, each more complex than the one before and turning more into 3-dimentional art forms than plates. Nevertheless, each plate was beautiful, unique, and truly amazing to contemplate and really allowed me to see feminism in a more artistic, but still very commanding way.