HomeArticlesJudy Chicago – The 2018 Burt and Deedee McMurtry Lecture (CC Included)
Judy Chicago – The 2018 Burt and Deedee McMurtry Lecture (CC Included)
October 12, 2019
Hello. All right, hello,
and good evening. For those of you I have yet to
meet, I am Jason Linetzky, and as Director of
the Anderson Collection at Standford University,
it’s my great pleasure and privilege to welcome
you here tonight. To the Bing Concert Hall for
our fourth annual Burt and Deedee McMurtry lecture
featuring Judy Chicago.>>[APPLAUSE]>>We’re in for a tremendous treat. But
I wanna thank all of you, for joining us here tonight.
To our joint museum members to our Stanford University
faculty, staff, and students. And to really
everyone assembled here. I extend my great thanks for
your continued support, participation and encouragement for what we do
at the Anderson Collection. Because of that, we do so
much. Tonight, we are here in this beautiful venue with
great thanks to Chris Lorway, who’s the Executive Director
of Stanford Live and the Bing Concert Hall.
And to his incredible team, who worked closely with the
Anderson Collection team to co-present tonight’s
program here, so thank you all.
And most especially, I wanna extend tremendous thanks
to Burt and Deedee McMurtry.>>[APPLAUSE]>>You’ve provided the Anderson
Collection with an opportunity to bring artists as esteemed
as Judy Chicago, to Stanford to be in conversation
with all of us here and with our Stanford students and
we are all incredibly grateful. We’re also
thrilled that today, the Stanford University book
store has made available books on Judy Chicago, many of which
are signed by Judy Chicago, we thank Judy for that. And
those books are available in the lobby at the end
of this show so please be sure to stop by.
A few house rules, please be sure to silence
your cellphones and please, do not take photographs or
record this evening. I’m excited to say that
we are recording it, and that the full program will
be may be available through the Anderson Collection
website in the coming days. Tonight we have a very special
program, one that takes the form of a conversation
between Judy Chicago and Marcy Marcy Quan, led with
an introduction by Judy and ended with a Q&A of questions
that were submitted by you, the audience. So you should
have all received a note card, please fill those out
during the conversation. Be sure to pass them to
the end of the row so they can be collected and a
selection of those submissions will then be read. And
now I’m delighted to introduce to you, Marcy Quan.
Quan is an Assistant Professor of Art History at
Stanford University, where she specializes
in the art and culture of the United States.
Her current book project, Enchantments, The Art of
Joseph Cornell is under advanced contract with
Princeton University Press. Before coming to Stanford,
Marcy Quan held positions at the Metropolitan Museum of
Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, and is currently
a fellow at Yale’s center for the study of material and visual culture of religion.
She is the recipient of grants from the ACLS
Loose Foundation, The Getty Research Institute, The Smithsonian American
Art Museum, and The Mellon Foundation.
At Stanford, in addition to being a professor,
Quan is an Anibad fellow, a Helman fellow, and an
affiliate of American Studies, the Center for Comparative
Studies in Race and Ethnicity, and modern thought
in literature. I’m absolutely honored that
Mercy has joined us and extremely excited to hear
her conversation with Judy. And Judy Chicago,
where to start but with what a fabulous moment
she is having again. And this time I think we can
all rest assured that Judy is here to stay. Judy Chicago
was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1938 and lives and works
in Belen, New Mexico. She has been rooted in the west
since the early 1960s when she enrolled at the University
of California Los Angeles and obtained her BA and MA in
1964. After creating work that was then associated to some
degree with Finnish fetish, light and space, minimalist,
and land artisthetics. All primarily male dominated
movements aptly described by Chicago as the macho art
scene of Southern California. Chicago distinguished
herself and her work through her
atmospheres of the late 1960s. These ephemeral interventions
of pyrotechnics, smoke and ice were in contrast to much
of the prevailing work. Their creation,
together with the founding of the Feminist Art Project at
Fresno State in 1970 yes, the first feminist art
program of its kind. It’s ultimate relocation to
Cal Arts in Valencia, and the establishing of the
landmark project Womanhouse with Miriam Schapiro in 1972. All focused Chicago’s
attention on the importance of the individual Collaboration
and performance. Chicago has carried these
values with her, and has taught us that persistence
pays, that education and collaboration are key.
That women’s achievements are valuable and deserve
recognition, and that art has the power to make a difference
in the world. In the last few years alone, Chicago has been
the focus of exhibitions from coast to coast, and in Europe
of work both past and present. Chicago’s iconic work The
Dinner Party which debut at the San Francisco Museum
of Art in 1979. Was recently highlighted at,
inside the Dinner Party Studio at the National Museum
of Women and the Arts, Washington, D.C. and roots of
the Dinner Party history in the making at
the Brooklyn Museum. Catalog for that show is
available here tonight. Judy Chicago has also had solo
gallery hosted exhibitions at Salon 94 in New York and
the Ju, and the Jessica Silverman Gallery
in San Francisco. Whose exhibition last year was
the first for Judy Chicago in San Francisco since the
premier of The Dinner Party. Yes, and [LAUGH] currently The
National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington
presents Women House. A group show featuring artists
and excuse me featuring artists from the globe, whose
works challenges conventional ideas about gender and
domestic space. Chicago’s work is found
in many collections, including the British Museum,
The Modena Museum, The Tate, The Metropolitan, The National
Gallery, LA County, LA Mocha. San Francisco Museum of Modern
Art, The Getty, you name it, The Art Institute of Chicago,
the list goes on and on. A forth coming monograph
will be published by Scala in January of 19, and if that’s
not all impressive enough, Time Magazine just named Judy
Chicago one of the 100 most influential people
of the year.>>[APPLAUSE]>>And in closing, as Jill Solloway,
an Emmy winning television director writes about
Chicago in the Time entry. Her moment is finally here
again, and everyone can see she is our legacy,
our great, our modern Freda. There should have been Jackson
Pollock and Andy Warhol, or whatever men got credited
with inventing everything.>>[LAUGH]>>She deserves every ounce of this brand new, but totally
necessary showing of attention resources, and tons,
and tons of love. I could not agree more. I
could not agree more. And so I invite you all to sit back and
relax. I’m gonna be welcoming Marcy Quant who will then in
turn welcome Judy Chicago. So please, a big round of
applause to all of them. [APPLAUSE]>>Hi, good evening, everyone. So to begin, I’d like to reiterate Jason’s
thanks to the McMurtrys for their incredible generosity
in funding this lecture. But also for everything they’ve
done for Stanford Arts. And together with
the Andersons, they’ve made Stanford just
an enormously vibrant and exciting place to study and
engage with the arts, for which I’m very grateful.
Before Judy comes out, I’d like to share a brief personal
reflection about what her work has meant to me. Feminism
has been a central aspect of my life for as long as I
can remember. As a child, I grew up hearing stories
about my great grandmother who was an organizer of
anti-colonial struggles against Japanese
occupation in Korea. One of the first stories I
remember hearing about her was how spent months in secret,
gathering materials, and sewing Korean flags for
a demonstration. Using her own blood to create
the color of Korean Taegukgi, her flag. As a result of her
participation in the protest, she was captured by
the colonial government. Because of this story, the so-called women’s
work of sewing was never just women’s work to me, but
a gesture of resistance and independence. Something
with a power of its own. My great grandmother went on
to found the first women’s art school in Korea. In my own
life then, art, education, and feminism have always
been bound together. Growing up as a second
generation Korean-American, Orange County, California,
I always thought the place was pretty dead in terms
of art and culture. I longed to get out and move
to New York for college just as soon as I could.
Imagine my surprise at age 18, sitting in my
first introduction to art history class, when I saw Judy Chicago’s
monumental dinner party. This work introduced me to the
enormous richness of women’s cultural production. And
did so through ceramics and embroidery. Looking down at
those individual runners, beautifully stitched with
the names of the women I was learning to love and
would come to love. I was immediately reminded of
the countless hours my great grandmother spent
stitching and dying flags. As I began to learn
more about Judy’s work, the capriciousness of her
practice, and her generosity to the women artists around
her, I fell in love. Although from one perspective,
our experiences and lives could not be
any more different. She’s Jewish American,
I’m Korean American. She grew up in Chicago
in the 40s and 50s, and I in California in the 90s.
When I look at her work, I feel more commonality
than difference. At the core of this
commonality is desire, a desire to make the world
a more equitable place. A desire, desire to show
that so-called low things, things gendered feminine such
as craft, subjectivity, and emotion need not
be denigrated. But in fact, contain their own
beauty and intelligence. And through her example in life,
I realized that California was not the cultural wasteland
that my teenage self had made it out to be. For its light
and traditions in schools had nourished Judy’s practice.
Judy is a fierce, complex, badass woman. And her
example has been a light for all of us who to
continue to struggle for the things she has spent
her life struggling for. She is the living embodiment
of my favorite line in all of Emily Dickinson. If your nerve
deny you, go above your nerve. Please join me in
welcoming Judy Chicago.>>[APPLAUSE]>>Hi.>>[LAUGH] Hey, Judy.
>>So to start off our conversation
I thought I would just ask you about the process of
becoming an artist. If you had some kind of
ah-ha moment, you know, where you knew that this is
what you wanted to do and needed to do with your life.
>>Yeah, I was a very little girl.
I started drawing at three.>>[LAUGH]>>And I started going to art school when I was five.
>>Mm-hm.>>And [COUGH] next month [COUGH] something really
meaningful is happening. I’m getting an honorary
doctorate and presenting the commencement
speech at the school of the Chicago Art Institute.
>>Amazing.>>[APPLAUSE]>>And->>[APPLAUSE]>>And the reason it’s meaningful to me is
that every Saturday, from the time I was 5, till
the time I was 17, when I came to LA to go to school. I used
to take the 153 bus from our house to the Chicago
Art Institute where I’d lose myself in making art. I
always wanted to be an artist. And I wanted, from very early
on, to make a contribution to art history. How did you get
interested in art history, Marcy?
>>[LAUGH] That’s a great question. I think for me it was just how
my brain worked. When I looked at a work of
art it just made sense to me. And there was something about
the specificity of the work. The idea that you could
get history in this like a small object that was
in front of you, or kind of compressed
into material form. That just spoke to me.
>>Did you grow up going to museums?>>Somewhat, occasionaly. You know, Orange County. [LAUGH]
>>Yeah, well no, but I mean, when did you discover
there was something?>>AP Art History, junior year of college.
>>Not until then?>>Yeah, yeah. It’s that was really it for
me. So I think, you know, things like education and
even just kind of seeing. I remember, kind of looking
at impressionist art and it being explained to me in
terms of the kind of history of industrialization in 19th
century France, for example. Where it was like, yeah, all of that is in this and
in these like specks of paint, and in these flowers.
>>Well I mean, after, after my classes at
the Chicago Art Institute, I used to go up in the
galleries. The Art Institute was much smaller then,
of course, than it is now. And I, I all, also looked at a lot
of the impressionist work. I looked at Monet’s Haystacks,
and Toulouse-Lautrec’s Reds, and Grande, and Grande Jatte
by Seurat, the color. And [COUGH] as I’m gonna say
next month in my commencement speech, I studied
all of that but what Pass me by was
the fact that there was no work by women on this.
>>Absolutely, and that’s why, you know, something like
dinner party was so instrumental for me, in terms
of just realizing that history has been laid out right
in front of me. And kind of speaking about that, I was wondering, about issues
of color in your work, yeah. [LAUGH]
>>Okay, I was looking to see if they
had started the slides.>>I’ve got it here. [LAUGH]
>>You’ve got it. Mercy, good, okay, fine.>>I control it.>>Well, when I was in art, when I was going to UCLA,
my painting instructors hated my color.
>>Really?>>Yes, hated it.
>>Wow.>>They also hated my imagery.>>[LAUGH}>>[LAUGH] Surprise, surprise.>>Yeah, but my color, at that time at UCLA,
the predominant palette grew out of an artist
named Rico Lebrun and Nathan Olivera.
>>Stanford.>>Black, sienna brown, ochre yellow, olive green.
>>Amazing.>>Definitely not ivory, orange-
>>[LAUGH]>>Red, and green.>>[LAUGH]>>Bright, so, can we have the next slide?
>>And to tell you how long attitudes towards color
in terms of what you were saying before about
emotion has persisted. Because that’s what
I was interested in. I, in the 60s,
I spent a lot of time working on how color could
create emotive states. And in fact, the Getty Research
Institute has my color book where it resides in the
history of color that goes all the way back to the alchemist.
It’s really fascinating, I didn’t really realize
I fit into that, a long tradition of artists
looking into the properties. I mean, I thought about
Elhurst, you know, but my approach was totally
opposite. But anyway, when my work was included in Pacific
Standard Time at the Getty, one of my male peers
objected because my color was too emotive.
>>[LAUGH]>>Wow. [LAUGH]>>Why are you so interested in, in color?
>>[LAUGH] Judy told me she’d be asking me questions, as
well. It’s a great question, I mean, I think that there
are a few answers to that. One is the kind of e, emotive
aspect that you’re talking about. I think about
the history of theosophy, but also the history of
kind of psychedelia and how important that was
in LA in the 1960s. But I think what’s really
interesting to me about color is just the
relationship between color and form in something like Rainbow
Pigment, or Rainbow Picket, where the color just seems so
integral to those forms. They almost seem like
they’re not separated out.>>Well, I mean, fusing color and surface was
actually something I got interested in very early. Like in the Car Hood, I went
to auto body school after I got out of graduate school.
>>[LAUGH]>>Amazing, best art education ever.
>>It was actually, because in all my years at
art school, nobody ever really talked about
the fact of making objects, that we were making objects.
It was all about expression, not about the craft of making
objects. I actually learned that in auto body school.
>>Wow.>>I had this incredible paint, painting teacher
named Percy Jefferies. He was a show car painter, that’s where you do like pin
striping and all that stuff. And he drove a candy apple
lavender convertible.>>[LAUGH]>>[LAUGH]>>Really cool, anyway, he told me something then that
has really been a hallmark for me and my work.
Which is, he said, Judy, there’s no such thing as
perfection, there’s only the illusion of perfection.
>>Very wise words, I think, for all of us.
>>Very wise words, yeah. And for a long time I,
you know, I, I was into that, like making work that
looked effortless, as if the human hand hadn’t touched
it, although it had all been made by hand. And in fact,
one of the things that Jeanie Greenberg wrote
in my dealer in New York was really interested in having
emphasized in the upcoming monograph is my hand.
>>Mm, mm, absolutely.
>>And later, even when we see some of my glass,
you’ll see that I started with dimensional hands.
>>Wow, so it’s that kind of fracture.
Yeah, I mean, the, the thing about what you’re saying about
color, as well, perfection, and the relationship
to form and auto body. You know, I just think about
how you, you spray paint them, right, so the color is
almost its own kind of, atmospheric pigment.
>>Yeah, well, actually, if we could go forward to the domes.
>>Yeah.>>Okay, so like, you know, because my,
the painting department was so inhospitable to me
in graduate school, I kind of segued into
sculpture, where there was a young professor named Oliver
Andrews. But again, you know, I was talking about I was
oblivious around gender at, at the Art Institute. I don’t
think I realized that when he gave me a teaching
assistanceship in sculpture in 1963, I was probably the first time a woman had
ever gotten a teaching assistanceship in sculpture.
>>Wow.>>Okay, but anyway he was young, and he was building his
department, and he was way more open. And so I went
where there was support, and I, I saw, I, I, I graduated
with a master’s in both painting and sculpture. And I,
I’ve gone back and forth from two to three dimensions
throughout my career. And [COUGH] I, I sometimes think
that probably some of my best work is right at that
juncture between->>That’s so interesting.>>Painting and sculpture. But anyway, so when I did the,
the series of domes, which are a series of blown
domes, and I was using my color systems to spray
color at different levels. And so, it, there, it was like
an encased atmosphere. It was only later when I started
doing fireworks, It was, it was around the same time.
I mean, later, when I thought about my fireworks pieces,
I realized that I was letting, I was liberating that color
from that encasement. But I’ve sprayed everything.
I mean, I’ve sprayed fabric paint,
china paint, glass paint, acrylic paint, everything,
I’ve sprayed everything, my auto body school training.
>>[LAUGH]>>Percy Jefferies, I’ll never forget him.
>>That’s fascinating. Yeah, so I mean, Butterfly for
Oakland, I had to put it in, obviously, with, the Bay Area
connection. But I think this, this idea of color also brings
me to another question I had about your work, which, is
something that, to me, is so radical about it, is Your
investment in pleasure in so many different dimensions. So the pleasure of color,
of the esthetic act but also obviously, sexual
pleasure. Something that I know you’ve thought about and
written about. And I was just wondering about your kind of
relationship with multiple dimensions of pleasure.
>>Well, actually, [COUGH] I’ll answer, but
I’m gonna come back to you. Because I’m interested-
>>[LAUGH]>>No, it, I’m interested like, intergenerationally.
>>Yeah.>>The challenges that I had when I was young,
around pleasure particularly, sexual pleasure. And
of course, there’s been this whole anti-pleasure attitude
in the art world. You know, like I guess it grows
largely out of minimalism, you know? And the attitude
towards rainbow picket and the color and
the visual pleasure of color. And it’s emotive and
sensate properties and that gets too close
to being a woman. It’s interesting
the man the curator art historian Chad who’s written
the essay on my early work. He did a talk in Santa Fa in
relationship to that when he was working on the essay.
And he did a gender theory look at minimalism.
>>Wow!>>He found these quotes from Donald Judd,
and Dan Flavin>>Particularly Dan Flavin, about the priapic nature-
>>[LAUGH]>>Of his neon [INAUDIBLE]. I mean, it was really interesting.
>>Yeah.>>And it challenged the notion-
>>Mm-hm.>>That somehow minimalism was universal and degendered.
>>Mm-hm.>>Whereas,>>Women’s work is simply gender. I mean huge
double standard okay. But anyway when I was brought
up in the generation that where people believed and insisted that women didn’t
need to have orgasms. Only men had to have orgasms
>>Wow.>>Well, that was very countered
in my experience. It didn’t go over very
well with me. But it was it was confusing
because my experience was contrary to what the social
attitudes were at the time. And I’ve read a lot
of writing and about the hookup culture.
And I read that story that went viral in the New Yorker,
the cat story. You know, I’ve been exceedingly
concerned about the fact that, you know, we all thought-
>>Mm-hm.>>The two things we fought for were equal housework and
equal pleasure.>>Mm-hm. [LAUGH]>>Sexual pleasure. I mean, we fought for that.
And so, When I’m reading all this stuff about young women,
just giving in to male desire. Or accommodating male
desire without asking for mutuality. And
I read that cat story about that girl’s inability to
ask for what she wanted. And it was very upsetting and
troubling to me. So I was curious about why
you asked that question and whether it grows out of-
>>[LAUGH]>>Some new set of concerns that younger
women are experiencing.>>It’s a really, it’s a,
it’s an excellent question. I mean I think that,
you know On one hand, it’s a huge topic on
college campuses, in particular.
>>It’s what?>>The idea of kind of sexual pleasure and sex, in
particular, is a huge topic on college campuses right now,
obviously, and an important one. And I think that for me,
one really important thing is that it has to come with
consent, right. And so and so I think that we should always
think about consent and pleasure in relation to
each other as well. But in terms of why I asked you
and why I’m interested in it. For me, I think that it
has to do with the idea of valuing other types of
knowledge and other types of being in the world, you know?
>>Pleasure as being something we consider, that goes kind
of beyond or exceedes, kind of intellectural
capacity and rationality. But something that is kind of
located within the body and there being a kind of
wisdom in that as well.>>Yeah well like Virginia Woolf said, the body doesn’t lie.
>>Yeah.>>Which you know I’ve also thought
was very, very wise. And I have to tell you when
feminist theory began to argue that there’s no such
thing as female desire, only men have desire.
I’m like, you have got to be kidding me.
>>[LAUGH]>>They get that too? They run the world and
they get that too? So I think that the,
one of the okay, when I got out of graduate school, I
locked myself in my studio for a month. And I set out
to try and make fashion both active male
phallic forms and active female vaginal forms.
And the flying phallus goes back to Greek times.
There’s a tradition of active masculinity, male sexuality,
male desire. And I couldn’t make a comparable
at that point. Active female sexuality. It took me
years. It’s one of the reasons I’ve done so much work on
erotic images than trying to. Because I feel like if
we don’t have images of our own active sexual desire.
>>Mm-hm.>>We experience ourselves only through a male gaze,
and not through our own body’s experience and desire.
And, you know, one of the things that gives me.
I can’t even tell you how much pleasure it gives me, is on Instagram all of
these like Club Clitoris, Vagina China. I love it.
>>Kinda different Instagram than I am in. [LAUGH] You gotta tell me.
>>You can just I mean you can just go on Instagram and
search for Vagina China and Club Clitoris.
And then there are all these names that people use
like vagina girl. And what I realized is
that my determination to fashion universal female images has actually
not gone unheard by younger women. And
in fact When The Dinner Party, of course,
when it was first reviewed, I mean, that was what
it was excoriated. That’s what the male critics
were like, pudenda on plates, vaginas on plates. I mean, they were hysterical.
Absolutely hysterical. And so that’s, I mean, really vagina
china, now that’s place, they actually started like
casting women’s vaginas and putting them on plates.
And greenware and firing them. Now that’s,
I mean, I was trying to make, you know, transformed, well,
I was trying to make the vag, vaginal form become all these.
>>Emily Dickinson.>>Yes, Emily Dickinson. Actually here’s
a really funny story. When the Holocaust project,
which Donald and I worked on, my husband and, and I worked
on for eight years, was gonna premiere, was gonna show, be
shown at the Rose Art Museum. We were in Boston to
prepare for the show and to do some preliminary
media and stuff like that. We were staying at some
friends in this hote, this fancy place they had,
and I was in the elevator. They lived on the 16th floor
and I was in the elevator with a Holocaust project book under
my arm. And this woman got in the elevator and she said,
you’re Judy Chicago, right? And I’m like uh-huh, and she said, and she pointed
to the book, and she said, and that show’s coming here,
right? I’m like, uh-huh. We got to the bottom floor.
The elevator door opened, and she said,
Emily Dickinson wasn’t Lacy.>>[LAUGH]>>I said to her.>>[LAUGH]>>I meant it as ironic.>>Yeah [LAUGH].>>This fierce center is like a, you get, that fierce center
surrounded and almost muffled, right, by the context in
which, and then I said to her, but really, this is 199, 8, 9, 2000. How long is that?
2000, I can’t remember when the Holocaust
project was in Boston. I said The Dinner Party was in
Boston in 1982. Thank you for remembering such a [LAUGH].
>>[LAUGH] Well, you never forget that [LAUGH].
>>[LAUGH]>>That’s my favorite play. That’s the one I spent
the most time staring at in the Brooklyn Museum.
I obviously love Emily. But you know,
going to The Dinner Party and also, some of your other work,
you know, speaking of things like the Birth Project,
another thing that,>>Let’s go to the Birth Project.
>>Yeah.>>Okay, we’re going. Now this is, you can start with that.
You can just start with the one before.
>>Okay, great, perfect.>>That’s a 14 foot tapestry.>>Yeah, it’s incredible.>>It’s a visual narrative that’s based on, a recreation
myth. Because I was standing there at the, like, in the, in
the Sistine Chapel, looking, I, I was in the Bay Area then,
and which was the center of the alternative birth
movement in the early 1980s. So I was, like,
seeing live births and I was hearing testimony, and
all, so about how, you know, about the birth experience. I was doing research and I was
starting the Birth Project. I’m standing there and
I’m looking out as a male god reaching out his finger and
creating man. And I’m like, no, that’s not how it happens.
>>[LAUGH]>>So I rewrote it and then made this tapestry.
>>Amazing, I mean, the, the, the, the idea of
narrative and rewriting, and especially tapestry is so
fascinating in terms of this kind of alternative
myth making. And it’s something that I,
you know, as I mentioned, in my introduction, I really
love about your work is how, capacious it is in terms
of going across paintings, sculpture, craft,
embroidery, ceramics. And I was just wondering about,
kind of issues of hierarchies of taste between art and
craft in your work and how you understand that.
>>Well, you know, I, I, I came through art school. I
knew that, you know, painting, if men did it, it was art and
if women did it, it was craft. And by all means, don’t associate with craft if
you wanna be taken seriously as an artist. You know,
it’s like, I think, Ron Nagle, I think he learned china
painting from his mother but he never told anybody that.
He told me that, but I don’t think he ever
made that public.>>So interesting.>>That wouldn’t have been cool, right?
>>Yeah.>>Anyway, you know, I didn’t set out, that’s one
of the things about the Roots book that’s interesting, I
said it was the first look at my creative process.
You know, there, a lot has been made about my
bringing needlework and china painting into a higher
context. And, but I mean, I didn’t set out to do that.
I, and had they not served
my set of goals, I wouldn’t have used them.
I mean, if you think about it, in the 60s, you know,
I used all kinds of what are called masculine
media. Although really, median techniques have no gender.
>>Exactly.>>They just have potential, expressive potential. And so
I would choose techniques specifically for the content
I wanted to convey. And so
when I was working on the, earlier before I actually
formulated The Dinner Party when I was first doing images
of women trying to make abstract portraits of women
in the Great Ladies series. And I was painting on canvas,
I was spraying, and I, there, I wanted to use a brush, but
I didn’t like oil paint. And I wanted to make
more precise images, and that’s when I found,
I saw china painting for the first time. Which, and
then of course, I appreciated the irony of telling a woman’s
story using a woman’s craft. And needlework was
a complete revelation to me.>>Wow.>>I, I, I didn’t grow up, did you grow up sewing?
>>[LAUGH] Of course.
>>Not me, man, I didn’t.>>[LAUGH]>>In fact in the Birth Project, I got so fed up with one of the pace
of one of the projects. I’m like teach me how to
needlepoint. I’m just gonna fucking do it myself.
>>[LAUGH]>>No, no, I did it, I put a stitch in, no, you know,
all right, and move along. But anyway, [COUGH] when I, it
was in The Dinner Party that I discovered that I had
this bizarre talent for designing for
needlework, I mean, particularly bizarre cuz I
can’t sew and I can’t stitch. But I can just see
a technique and imagine, and in terms of the, tapestry, I,
I think I first designed for tapestry during
The Dinner Party when I was working on the
Eleanor of Aquitaine runner. I wanted to use the unicorn
tapestry as a basis. And so I learned that on
the Obasan tapestry looms, which are the high warp
looms of the Renaissance, women were not allowed on
those, even though needlework, I mean, in the history
of needlework, really. If men do it, did it, it was,
there was money involved. If women did it, there was no
money involved, basically. But I, I, by the time I
finished The Dinner Party, I had done the runner back for
Mary Wollstonecraft. Which shows Mary Wollstonecraft
dying from child bed fever two months after giving birth to
Mary, who went on to write- Frankenstein, okay,
Mary Shelley. And I, like, that was the first real image
of birth I ever did, and it was really raw and graphic.
And when it was transformed into needlework I thought,
my God, by that time, I had gotten an interest in
the subject of birth. And at that time, I thought there
were no images of birth in Western art, actually. Frida
Kahlo was not known then, I know people can’t imagine
it. She was just considered Diego Rivera’s wife,
who also paints, and so my birth wasn’t known,
that painting. And it’s another form of erasure
actually in our history, not just erasing women
artists. But erasing subjects and techniques that have
not been defined as art. So why are you so interested
in this art craft discussion?>>[LAUGH] Well, I think it goes back
to those flags and thinking about my great
grandmother making them. And also, having sewed myself,
there’s just a, there’s labor involved.
There’s intelligence involved, and they make
beautiful objects. I mean, I think the thing
about needlepoint which is so fascinating to me, is it’s
actually so geometric, right?>>Yes.>>Despite like how we might associate it with, you know,
these kinds of more stereotypically gendered
forms. It’s all about
like the grid and kind of creating patterns
within the grid, yeah.>>It is all about the grid, that’s absolutely right.
And in fact, you won’t believe this, because
this isn’t needlepoint.>>Yeah, I know, it’s not, yes.
>>This is embroidery, embroideries, now
this is macrame.>>Yes.>>Okay? Like, you must be kidding,
remember when macrame, like hanging baskets?
>>[LAUGH] Julia Brian Wilson has like a new book on textile
and politics. Where she’s like, it’s really embarassing
to teach macrame sometimes. [LAUGH]
>>[LAUGH] Well, the th- the thing is
about needlepoint->>Mm-hm.>>In particular about the grid,
that’s really interesting. [COUGH], because I had to
draw when I was drawing for needlepoint in a certain way.
Through tapestry too, because of how sure and the
grip and the warp and weft.>>Mm-hm, yes.>>And, right, and actually, that was used against me. There was this very popular
thing in the 1980s, which was a saying that
Judy Chicago can’t draw, just look at those edges.
>>Mm-hm.>>Without any understanding.>>Wow.>>Of having to draw for a grid and like, it’s okay if
the grid is really minimal. Agnes Martin’s grids are fine,
but needlepoint grids, no, no, no, no, no.
>>That’s so interesting.>>Right?>>That’s so interesting.>>So there’s, I mean, the more you look at this
through all the theory, feminist theory.
Gender theory, all the theory, you begin to understand how
much all those judgements are shaped. They have nothing
to do with aesthetics at all.>>Yes, yes.
>>But they actually prevent
us from being able to appreciate certain
aesthetic experiences. Like the way you appreciated
that story you told about your grandmother, I mean,
that’s an incredible story. It was your grandmother?
>>Yeah, great grandmother.>>Great grandmother, right.>>Yeah, but I think that that’s so,
I mean, what you’re describing is so at the heart of why
I care about these forms. Where it’s like, they’re art,
and they should be treated as such.
>>Right, but even if you go to like some of the museums
that show craft.>>Mm-hm.>>I’ll never forget watching this one film, and it, the hand of the craftsman, the hand of the craftsman
is doing this. Number one, it was a woman.
>>[LAUGH]>>Number two, she was anonymous, and
it wasn’t an artist doing it.>>Yeah, of course.>>It was the hand doing it all by itself,
the ungendered hand.>>[LAUGH]>>Yeah, no, it’s it’s, it’s, I think still
very much with is.>>It is very much with us, absolutely. It will be
a long time before that structure of perception in
terms of art is dismantled.>>Yes, so very briefly, I’d like to take a pause and
ask everyone who has written down a question on
their note cards. To just pass them to the aisle
and we’ll start answering them, or Judy will answer them
in about ten minutes or so.>>Because we’re determined to try and
get through the rest of the slides.
>>Yeah.>>Marcy did an incredible job
introducing you to, or giving you glimpses of
the range of my work. For example, this 16 foot work,
called Four Questions, that comes out of
the Holocaust Project. Which, as I said, I did over an eight
year period with my husband, photographer Donald Woodman.
And it addresses some of the issues that
remain unanswered. Some of the questions that
remain unanswered and are still with us. And this
was probably the most complex work in the Holocaust Project
to do, it combines painting and photography.
If you look at it one way, let me see what the next
slide is, Marcy. I think you’ve got them both,
no, no, I don’t think so, okay, no, okay, go back.
If you look at them one way, you see Holocaust imagery,
if you look at them the other way, you see
contemporary issues. And if you look at them straight
on the image is blurred and the questions come into view.
And it’s as a metaphor for how blurry these questions are,
even today. So, for example, the first one juxtaposes
high altitude, experiments, this is at Dachau.
>>Wow.>>With silver springs experiments on monkeys.
>>Wow.>>On primates, and the question is where should the
line be drawn? This and, and also, the actual combination
of painting, and and, photography gets blurry. The
first are based on two photos, the second and third are both
combinations of photography and painting. The last one’s
all painting but there, they, they also blur. The second
one from one view is you see the slave labor tunnels of,
from the second World War. Where the Germans buried
their armament program. And from the other side,
you see our triumphant man on the moon. Because our
scientific, accomplishment was based on bringing over
the Nazi doctors and the Nazi science
that undergirded. And that should say when to,
that, the question is, when does the end justify the
means? And in the third panel, you look from one side and you
see the T4 Euthanasia Project. Which was killing everybody
considered unfit to live by the Nazis, and, and
this preceded the Holocaust, actually. And from the other
side, you see people being kept alive, like way beyond
the point of no return through medical technology. And the
answer, the question there is, what determines the quality of
life? And then, in the last one, you look one way and
you see Hitler’s sterilization program. Sterilizing
the quote lower races. And then on the other side,
you see people, women of color, being used
as surrogates for money, for babies,
reproductive technology. And the question is who
controls our human destiny?>>Wow, I think, I think it provides just such a kind of
remarkable sense of the breath and ambition of your entire
artistic project. And for me, the kind of anamorphosis. I
mean, first of all it kills me that I’ve never seen
these in person [LAUGH]. I want, I’m dying to
see them in person. But the anamorphosis, the idea
you’re talking about, of, the kind of shifting
images seems like such a wonderful and
kind of poignant metaphor for memory.
>>Yeah.>>And the way it kind of collapses time. And those, and
those kind of distinctions become blurry.
>>You know, actually.
>>Mm-hm.>>Memory is about history, right?
>>Mm-hm.>>So. Who controls memory, and which memories get
remembered. Like for example there’s this
show right now at Ronald Feldman Gallery in
New York, called Violated. It’s about sexual assault
starting in the Holocaust and moving up into more
recent genocides. For many, many decades,
there was no discussion of sexual
assault in the Holocaust. It was like women’s
experiences. We did a piece, Donald and I,
called Double Jeopardy, which looked at the intersection
between racism and sexism that defined women’s
experiences. But, you know, until very recently,
like deliberate rape was not, as a weapon of war, was not
considered a form of genocide, right?
>>Right.>>So whose memory counts?>>Absolutely, and it’s, I mean it’s something
that kind of goes back to my own experience too. As one
of my My earliest memories, I was going to
the Japanese Embassy and protesting about
the kind of erasure of comfort women.>>Yes.
>>[CROSSTALK]>>Which is still going on, right?
>>Exactly. And for a long time, America erased
the history of Japanese internment, for example.
>>Yes, yes.>>You know, like we erased the history and memory of slavery.
Not that again, right? I mean, that was the attitude, right?
>>Yeah, and I think, you know, just the kinda formal
idea of anamorphosis and the kinda shifting flickering
instability of that. Is just such a perfect kind of
formal encapsulation of those incredibly complex ideas.
>>That’s interesting, what do you mean by that?
>>[LAUGH] Good question. I don’t know. [LAUGH]
>>[LAUGH]>>No. No, I mean, I think that, well I think
when I first saw these images, I was thinking about some of
the anamorphic portraits. For example of Lincoln that you
see in 19th century American storage wings. And they’re
kind of interleaving a single person link in with like
maybe, an image of currency or the United States, and.
>>Yeah, sure.>>It’s so much about, as you were
saying, where you’re standing, how you’re experiencing
what image gets kind of pulled forward or not.
>>Right.>>Yeah and os I think that there’s kind of an inherent
subjectivity to something like anamorphic images.
>>I think one of the challenges now for people in the arts
is to create a truly diverse art world and art history, not just a system
of exporting Western art to all the colonies.
>>Absolutely.>>But an actual valuing of everyone’s voice
and everyone’s memory. That’s a very different
history than we inherity. It’s a very different
art history than we see.
>>Yes.>>And we’ve definitely changed the conversation about
that, but we haven’t changed the institutions yet.
>>Absolutely, and that was going to be one
of my next questions. Although I think it’s time to
maybe ask for the questions, from the audiences. But while
we’re kind of thinking about these, I think that, you know,
probably something that’s on everyone’s mind has to do
precisely with the current moment we’re in.
And you with your kind of vast experience really
fighting the good fight. I’m curious what advice you
have for the young people in the room who are just
beginning that struggle.>>Well, I’ve tried to leave a lot of evidence
>>My path which has been, I mean tough.
Anybody who studied my career knows that okay. I keep saying
it’s a miracle what’s happened because you know usually for
an artist to become as visible as I am
>>They had a powerful collector, curator, gallery,
critic. I had none of that. I had in fact, the art
world tried to kill me, erase me influence,
pretend I didn’t exist, pretend the dinner party
didn’t exist. And so I was saying to you that it’s
actually really interesting to me. Jason quoted from
Jill Soloway, I, when they do this thing of the hundred
most influential people in the world in Time magazine,
they get people to write about you. And I didn’t know who was
writing about me. And so I didn’t know that Jill Soloway
saw The Dinner Party when she was 15 years old. And she was
really funny. She’s like, I couldn’t imagine why somebody
in my mother’s generation could’ve done those images.
[LAUGH] It was really funny. But I was actually
saying to Donald that, then I was saying it
to you. That the response to the time thing was way beyond.
I mean on all my emails, on Instagram and Jill and
your introduction. Because for so long, because I
had, was battling in the art world to try and
Have my legacy and my work recognized.
>>Mm-hm.>>I didn’t realize there was a, there were whole
generations coming up.
>>Hmm.>>Who were learning from my work.
>>Mm-hm.>>Like Jill.>>Mm-hm.>>Like you, and like I remember seeing the
second season of Transparent. And being completely
knocked out on the section in the shows where Jill is
dealing with Wymar. And the open kind of
gender fluidity that flourished then.
And I realized that she was doing something that
I have done my entire life, which is to teach through art.
And that she was teaching a whole young
generation of gay, lesbians, trans, gender fluid people
about their history using an artistic media. And it
wasn’t until I read that and all these comments by all
these young people about how What, who I was
in their life and what an influence I’d been,
that I realized that it had it has been invisible to
me because I’ve been so focused on my battle in
the art world. But, so yeah, it’s a miracle but
it’s the result of fighting my entire life, pursuing my own vision, accepting that this is a long, historic struggle. That
the woman, the philosopher, Martha Nussbaum, who is
a world-renowned philosopher, who wrote about my new project
for the monograph, and which will be premiered next
June, a year from this year. She, the the project’s called
The End, a meditation on death and extinction. And
I didn’t know her, I just knew her work when I approached
her, because she had worked on both animal rights and aging.
>>Wow.>>And she, in her writing, talks about the history of
social justice movements. And about, for me, this also clarified my
history as an artist, which is the steady expansion
of my feminist gaze. From issues about gender,
first women, then the construct
of masculinity, before there was gender
theory, queer theory. And she talks about the
evolution of social justice movements, steadily expanding
who should qualify for social justice.
The African Americans, women, Gays, lesbians, transgender.
Expanding that also to include other species, which is
what extinction is about, the extinction section of The
End. And I realized that is really my own journey in terms
of the expansion of my gaze. And that’s what I
believe feminism is. It’s about starting
with the idea that with me I have the right
to equality. And then understanding
there’s no equality for me, unless there’s
equality for all of us. And so, for
young people, you know, would I give up one minute
of what I’ve struggled for? Was it worth it, to feel like
I’ve made a contribution? Absolutely, it was worth it.
And I was sustained by knowing my history, and what women
went through before me so we could sit here. And
I had to be really isolated. Art making was my reward,
I wanted to make art, I had a burning desire to
make art. And actually, we didn’t get to your question
about education and teaching. But I’ve actually taught,
I thought about it, Marcy. I have actually formally
taught very little. I taught four years in
the 70s, when I was starting the feminist art programs.
And between 1999 and 2006, I did six one-term,
one-quarter, I mean, one-semester residencies
around the country, first alone and then with Donald.
Cuz I wanted to assess the, what was happening in studio
art programs, and I wrote Institutional Time, a critique
of studio art education. And I realize that yes, I’ve,
I’ve been an educator but I’ve educated through art.
And The Dinner Party taught me the power of art.
If you think about it, The Dinner Party has been
actually seen by a million and a half people, two and
a half million people. And taught to millions of people
all around the world, which means, I taught
women’s history through art, to millions of people. And that’s what I believe
art should do, can do, and is intended to do. And
that is in very stark contrast to how young people are being
brought up to be artists. So, fucking kick ass.
>>[LAUGH]>>[APPLAUSE]>>It’s amazing. Well thank you,
you’re all of our teacher. So I have a few
audience questions, if you don’t mind. So
one as an art historian reach, recent graduate, I’ve
studied much of your works in the movements you have been
a part of. In an effort to let you control history, what do
you wanna be remembered for? What do you want your
legacy to be? So it sounds like we’ve touched
upon this a little bit but,>>Well, I’m you know I’ve been
working a lot on that I, because one of my
goals was to overcome the erasure of women’s
achievements. Cuz I knew all about it from
The Dinner Party, and also fro my study of women
artist before me. Like, in the 18th century,
do you, do you know who Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun was?
>>Yes [LAUGH]>>Yes, good, okay, I actually talked to an art historian
recently who did not.>>Wow.>>Okay, Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun was one of the circle
of artists around Marie Antionette, who was
a big patron of women artists. In fact, she and,
Labille Guiard were so successful, that young
girls grew up thinking, I’m gonna become an artist. I’m gonna make a lot of money,
I’m going to be famous. And 200 years after her death,
she was the most productive woman artist up to her time.
200 years after her death, her work has still not
been cataloged. And it’s only in the last few
years, that France did the first retrospective
of her work, okay? So, I have focused a lot
on how to make sure, that was one of
the reasons I was so determined to see The Dinner
Party housed. Otherwise it would repeat the story it
tells. And I have been working with three institutions
who are collaborating, East Coast institutions, what a thought.
>>[LAUGH]>>Anyway, they’re collaborating in
archives, and I mean, I’ve been doing a lot. I’ve
left 14 books for young people who are interested in finding
out how I did what I’ve done. And I feel at this
point fairly confident that, at least, this is what
I said in Beyond the Flower, my second autobiography.
Even if there was another wave of erasure,
which I Believe there will be. Is there any happening? I
mean, watching Trump push back all the gains. It’s like young
women thinking they didn’t have to vote because
they took it for granted that they had
certain rights. And then all of a sudden they’re
like what do you mean I’m not gonna be able to have
an abortion? I mean, and for my generation, to see that has
to be fought all over again, that’s erasure. We’re in
another cycle of erasure. So what I feel now is that I had
to find my legacy, my history, and that may happen again.
But if somebody is looking, they’ll find me, just like I
found the women before me.>>That’s beautiful, thank you. And then the second
question we have are what are your thoughts on the,
quote, craftivism movement?>>The what?>>Craftivism, it’s like craft and activism.
>>I know, it’s like->>[LAUGH]>>Well, [LAUGH] you know whatever
rocks your boat.>>I mean, I think the question you
raised around that which we didn’t get to. I thought
that was really interesting, about expertise. I would
actually like you to, cuz you had raised it in relationship
to the distinction between art and craft. And I think there is
a distinction between art and craft. And so I was very
interested in your comment about expertise. So let’s talk
about that in relationship to craftism. Yeah, I mean I, I
just think of all the intense expertise that goes into
making anything, you know? And that but also that you know,
something like the pussy hat, which I think you’re the
mother of [LAUGH] in some way. [LAUGH] That is a pattern that
circulated online, right? And so, and so, I think that
expertise is foundational and to everything we’ve
been talking about. It’s foundational to how hierarchies
are maintained and created. But I also think that it’s
something that, you know, your interest in a kind of
broad, capacious range of experience kind of challenges.
>>But, you know, we were talking about [COUGH] the some
of the institutional blocks. I mean, the fact that young
people are not brought up even now learning women’s history,
which should be taught to boys and girls. I
don’t see any reason why girls should study man’s history.
>>It’s history, it’s just history.
>>Right, and boys don’t have to
study our history. That’s like, excuse me?
But [COUGH] still brought up without a lot of that.
The feminist art movement is still omitted from most art
history curricula. Okay, so these crafters do not
understand their crafts in their context and
history in the way in which, for example women use quilts.
And like your great grandmother
used sowing to stitch in and tell stories and in the
service of social justice and change. So I thought
the pussy hats were great. I think sitting around and
knitting, unless it’s connected to
some movement, some purpose, some effort to make change,
is self indulgent.>>[LAUGH]>>[LAUGH] I love I love the importance and
I love the importance of history in your work.
And the construction of it, but also the deep respect and
recovery of it. And I think that, you know, in
terms of things like expertise in what you’re describing.
I think you’re also kind of giving us, inviting us.
But also prompting us and challenging us to kind of
gather our own expertise to ourselves.
>>Absolutely.>>Yeah.>>Absolutely.>>As a form of interactivism.>>Be your best.>>Yeah well so with that I think we’re
out of time. It flew by. [LAUGH] But thank,
I hope everyone can join me in thanking Judy Chicago.