Have you ever planned a table setting for 1,038 people?
In 1979, feminist artist Judy Chicago debuted The Dinner Party. The massive art installation represents 1,038 women in history—39 women are represented by place settings and another 999 names are inscribed in the Heritage Floor on which the table rests. The monumental work of art is comprised of a triangular table divided by three wings, each 48 feet long. It took a team of 129 people, six years, and $250,000 to produce.
Chicago created the piece in order to”end the ongoing cycle of omission in which women were written out of the historical record”. Each plate setting represents an influential woman from history, the “guests of honor”. Their plate settings are rendered in a style appropriate to the individual woman being honored. Each plate,other than the plate that represents Sojourner Truth seat, depicts a brightly-colored, elaborately styled vulva-esque form. The settings rest upon elaborately embroidered runners, executed in a variety of needlework styles and techniques. The table is split into three wings, each wing defined by eras in history. Wing One of the table begins in prehistory with the Primordial Goddess and continues chronologically with the development of Judaism to early Greek societies to the Roman Empire which marks the decline in women’s power, with Hypatia’s place setting. Wing Two covers early Christianity through the Reformation, depicting early expressions of the fight for equal rights, from Marcella to Anna van Schurman. Wing Three begins with Anne Hutchinson and addresses the American Revolution, the suffrage movement, and the movement toward women’s increased individual creative expression, symbolized at last by Georgia O’Keeffe.
The Dinner Party was exhibited in 16 venues in 6 countries on 3 continents to a viewing audience of over one million people. The Dinner Party is now permanently housed in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum where it draws thousands of visitors from all over the globe.
The latest exhibit at the Women’s Museum of California, Night Stand: Bedside Imaginings by the Feminist Image Group took inspiration from Judy Chicago’s famous work. The Feminist Image Group created beautiful nightstands, each one suggests a woman, real or imagined, who sleeps next to it. The artists have constructed and assembled an array of imagined bedside tables, lamps, and accessories to provoke and delight the viewer. The sculptures serve as metaphors exploring female narratives of wakefulness and sleep, dreams, domesticity, self-care, eroticism, birth, and death and offer viewers an original aesthetic experience with an invitation to interact with the art. The exhibit runs until November 27th.