The Dinner Party (1979) is arguably one of the most iconic and significant pieces of feminist art ever made. Chicago’s goal for The Dinner Party was to break the cycle of history repeating itself. She accomplished this by honoring the forgotten women of the past with three tables in a triangle formation and each of those woman has their own personalized dinner place; Chicago describes it as the Last Supper but for women.
Each place setting has a glass plate, decorated with a butterfly or flower symbolic of the vulva. There is a total of thirty-nine “guests of honor” and all of which come from different historical backgrounds. The first wing of the table is dedicated to the women from Prehistory to the Roman Empire, one of the women included is Judith, the biblical Judith that killed Holofernes and makes a debut in Artemisia Gentileschi most famous painting. The second wing is dedicated to women from the beginnings of Christianity to the Reformation, one of the women Judy Chicago picked for this time period was Artemisia Gentileschi. The last wing is in memory of the woman from the American to Women’s revolution, and a couple of those women are Sacajawea, Susan B.
Anthony, and proto-feminist artist Georgia O’Keeffe. Not only was Judy Chicago an artist but was also an educator. Chicago in 1970 took a position at Fresno State College, along with a fellow feminist artist, Miriam Schapiro.
The course focused on enabling female artist and she describes it as “moving away from the male-dominated art scene and being in an all-female environment where we could study our history separate from men’s and see ourselves in terms of our own needs and desires, not in terms of male stereotypes of women (Gerhard, 2011, p.593).” Together, Schapiro and Chicago created the Feminist Art Program (FAP) and from teaching the course together they also began to collaborate with each other on projects outside of the classroom. This dynamic duo, with the help of twenty-one all-female students, created an installation called Womanhouse. The FAP team remodeled an old Hollywood home that was going to demolish and transformed into a work of art. The origins of this project started with the exploration of women’s psychological enmeshment with domesticity.
“Women had been embedded in houses for centuries and had quilted, sewed, baked, cooked, decorated, and nested their creative energies away. What would happen, we wondered, if women took those very same homemaking activities and carried them to fantasy proportions (Gerhard, 2011, p.596)?” The entire house from top to bottom is installed with some of the best feminist art ever, the kitchen has eggs that look breasts hanging on the walls and in the linen closet, there is a sculpture of a woman trapped inside.