Reflection: “The Dinner Party” (2014)

 

To walk around “The Dinner Party” is to greet history in a fuller, less inhibited manner. Designed, built and crafted by historian and artist Judy Chicago and dozens of artisans, and funded by the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation between 1974 and 1979, it is a tribute to women from the beginning of recorded history forward, and an effort against the omission of these accomplished women from historical records. As I made my way around the table, I reminded myself of all I had learned about these women in my classes in college. I knew more about their suffering as well as their successes than most of the people who visit them at the Brooklyn Museum each day, the knowledge of which made me hold the existence of the work to an even higher standard. I need feminism because these women of history have pieces of art dedicated to them at a landmark location, but they are still not honored as historic figures in school curriculums across the country. They may be recognized by feminist artists, sympathetic historians, and the people, are having experiences around the world , but they have not been introduced as their husbands and fathers have been. They are not foremothers alongside the forefathers. Mary Wollstonecraft and her Vindications (1790 and 1792) and Olympe de Gouges with her declaration of the rights of woman (1791), preceded each of their horrible deaths by only a few years, but the texts remind us that they knew and struggled with obstacles that women professionals and creators still manage to break through to this day. We must remember the 999 women in the tiles and 39 women at the table in our creations. We must draw in their contributions to dilute our inhibitions about public expression and revive the knowledge they left for us, for history, just as we have been inspired by the other figures w’ve been taught over time. “The Dinner Party” is a reminder and a testament to this collective journey we face. Onward from their we walk…

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