Recently, my friend Jaime invited me and about 15 friends to a dinner party or rather: The Dinner Party. There was no food or drink and there was nowhere for us to sit, but it was a dinner party I will not soon forget. It is a celebration of the power and history of my very own gender. How is it that I had not heard of Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party on permanent display at The Brooklyn Museum? Shame on me.
For a couple of days afterwards I kept my brain amused by thinking about how I would write about this audacious exhibit. I consider myself fairly forward thinking, but still writing about female anatomy artistically rendered on a plate does not sit completely comfortably with my Ohio born and raised self. Again shame on me, but it is what it is.
Happily The New York Times Sunday Magazine took on this challenge in a very well researched and well written cover story by Sasha Weiss. The article expounds on the very exhibit that Jaime brought me to just three days prior. Bravo to Jaime for masterminding this as one of our New York City art outings. And bravo for nailing the timing. The exhibit has been a permanent part of the Brooklyn Museum since 2007! It was created in the 1970’s! It involved over 400 people (of that number only 6 were paid) and took over 5 years to create. When unveiled in San Francisco it was received with equal parts celebration and disdain. The latter subsumed the former, which landed the extensive body of work into a storage facility for almost 20 years.
Each place setting at The Dinner Party table is dedicated to a historically important woman who had not previously been granted “a seat at the table”. In addition to the aforementioned plates gamely celebrating the female anatomy, each attendee with a place at the table received a laboriously researched, meticulously and beautifully constructed embroidered runner providing a synopsis of that woman’s contribution to history.
That is 48 plates and 48 runners positioned in an equilateral triangle. Had I heard of some of the women? Yes. Had I heard of all them? No.
What was really dismal was the story of the San Francisco researcher who went to the library to gather books to fuel her quest for knowledge on the endeavors of women in history before the 1800’s. In the vast library the researcher located exactly 6 printed books titled Memoirs of Illustrious and Celebrated Women of All Ages and Countries by Mary Hays and published in 1903. Six printed books. The diminutive size of the work was surprising, but further maddening was that we learned it hadn’t been checked out in 61 years!
Grab your group and go see this exhibit (your choice on whether or not to bring the children is personal). Definitely take the tour to get a better understanding of all that this exhibits entails. And read the article that a braver person than me wrote about a super brave woman who deserves her very own seat at The Dinner Party table. I wonder what Judy Chicago’s embroidered runner would entail (the self proclaimed founder of the feminist art movement)? Make space for Judy Chicago!