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4 Stories Behind Judy Chicago's New "The Dinner Party" Plate Collection

  • Judy Chicago - The Dinner Party (Primordial Goddess plate), 1974–79. © Judy Chicago
April 7, 2018
Studied Photography at IED in Milan, Italy. Passionate about art, frequent visitor of exhibitions, Widewalls photography specialist and Editor-in-Chief.

The year 2018 definitely continues to put women artists in the spotlight, as a trend that began the year before with museums and major art galleries finally altering their schedules and programs – only a notch, but it’s still something.

This has had an impact on Judy Chicago as well, as her legendary The Dinner Party was more than successful on view at the Brooklyn Museum, which it also permanently houses, at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. On April 7, the artist will also sign copies of her new book, Roots of “The Dinner Party”: History in the Making, there. Her work serves as inspiration to the Women House group show currently at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC.

The latest item on Chicago’s busy, fruitful agenda is the marvelous release of plates inspired by The Dinner Party this week in New York. The groundbreaking feminist installation created in 1974 featured 39 hand-painted ceramic pieces, each dedicated to one famous woman in history, and in 2018, she made functional plates based on these works for the very first time.

The collection was released in collaboration with The Prospect NY, and it includes four fine bone china plates, but also silk throw pillows, a scarf, and a wooden puzzle. The Plates range from $135 to $155 and also tell stories of the people and phenomena that inspired them – which is what we review in this article.

Amazon

The Amazon societies, as most recently seen in the movie Wonder Woman, were women-only communities which are thought to have existed during the third and second millennia BC.

Egalitarian, demarcating and generally peaceful, their symbols were the white egg, the red crescent, and the black stone for instance, all depicted in Judy Chicago’s Amazon plate.

These motifs are combined with metallic breastplates, thought to have been worn by Amazons in battle. On either side of the center image is an upraised lustered double ax, or labyris, an integral part of Amazon cultures, used in felling trees, clearing land, and worshipping the Goddess.

Featured images: Judy Chicago – The Dinner Party (Amazon plate), 1974–79. © Judy Chicago, courtesy Prospect NY.

Sappho

Little is known of her life and much of her work is lost, but Sappho is a much celebrated figure, and is considered one of the greatest lyric poets of Western civilization. Living between 630 and 570 BC, she was also a teacher, and one of a large following too.

She was known for often erotic and quite open poems expressing her love and desire of women and, because she came from the Greek island of Lesbos, women who love women are now called “lesbians”.

Sappho was known as the “flower of the Graces” and her plate, which draws upon this reference, is painted in green and lavender: colors associated with this amazing woman.

Featured image: Judy Chicago – The Dinner Party (Sappho plate), 1974–79. © Judy Chicago, courtesy Prospect NY.

  • Judy Chicago - The Dinner Party (Primordial Goddess plate), 1974–79. © Judy Chicago

Primordial Goddess

The concept of Primordial Goddess, which sees the feminine principle as the fundamental cosmic force, dates back to the Paleolithic era and the considerations of Mother Earth as the sacred female power responsible for the creation of the earth and all its flora and fauna.

The goddess, as the divine creator, was reflected in each woman’s body, and was often depicted through images of the vulva, often with a seed, pointing to the link of the body to the reproductive capabilities of nature.

The plate’s design depicts an undeveloped butterfly form with a volcanic center and wings not yet evolved from a flesh/rock substance. Its center is dark and molten, signifying the primal vagina and the sacred vessel, source of all life energy.

Featured images: Judy Chicago – The Dinner Party (Primordial Goddess plate), 1974–79. © Judy Chicago, courtesy Prospect NY.

Elizabeth R

The daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I was Queen of England and Ireland between the years 1558 and 1603. Her reign, although preceded by many difficulties including her father declaring her illegitimate and imprisonment, is still considered a fruitful one in English history, as she also contributed to schooling women more.

The last monarch of the House of Tudor, Elizabeth I is also called The Virgin Queen, as she produced no heirs, despite numerous courtships.

Paintings of the Queen depicted in gorgeous costumes and wide, elaborate ruffs inspired her place setting. The plate is painted in the rich colors traditionally associated with royalty.

Featured image: Judy Chicago – The Dinner Party (Elizabeth R plate), 1974–79. © Judy Chicago, courtesy Prospect NY.