The Drawers - Judy Chicago   Commentary written by Julie Oakes

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Judy Chicago

Although Georgia O'keefe had painted flowers that were suggestive of vaginal imagery, it wasn't until Judy Chicago and The Dinner Party that female sexuality found due attention in the echelon of acceptable subjects for the attention of the visual arts. Adopting art forms taken from the womanly crafts (china, painting, needlework and ceramics), she rallied the support of helpers and made a project that was beyond the accustomed scope of female, certainly, and even most male precedents. It was a starting point, the avant garde step that set women into great strides and Judy Chicago, as well, not only kept pace with her first glorious stepping-out but superseded herself with other work such as the Birth Project and the Holocaust Project. The resounding confirmation that she is indeed The Avatar is in the work.

It is fitting that the suite of prints from the Birth Project should be part of WWW.Women and that her definitive imagery and energy should stand beside many successful women artists whose work has been influenced by Judy Chicago in one way or another. Printed in 1985, when the technical rigor of serigraphy meant that the stencils were applied by hand, rather than photographically adhered to the silk as they are often made today, the prints are adept and flawless in execution. The shading, done with a stippled touch creates voluminous folds and curves much like a heavy set airbrush. The soft modelling is sensuous. The paper itself has been lifted from inclemency to become a lively presence, radiating self assurance and confident femininity. Chicago has reclaimed the subtle, reaffirmed the curve, opened the center and bloomed. To see the work that was made twenty years earlier, as vibrant and seductive as ever, from the hand of an artist who has been held as an iconographic figure in the art world, still as beautiful as ever, inspiring the desire to possess - is a heartening affirmation that the place women have managed to secure in the arts is not only blossoming but managing to maintain a full bloom.

Judy Chicago, to many women artists, has been the grand dame of contemporary art because she organised art projects such as The Dinner Party and the Birth Project that went way beyond the size limitations and ambitions of women artists previous to her. She has inspired artists and artisans to feed their expertise into her visionary overview while granting an enabling legacy to the following generations of women artists.

Julie Oakes Copyright 2008 Headbones Gallery