Judy Chicago – What Do You Need to Know?

Judy Chicago is no doubt one of the most iconic female characters that have ever been in the art scene. She is a must-know feminist artist for art lovers and she became an inspiration for not only a number of upcoming female artists but also reached a broad audience. Therefore, this could be the right time to know Judy Chicago’s true soul.


Judy Chicago is an American feminist artist born in Chicago, the US, in 1939. She is known for her large-scale art installation pieces that sought attention to women’s role in society and reflected women’s lives.

To understand artists’ work, it is necessary to understand their stories. So, let’s get to know Judy Chicago better!

Judy Chicago’s story and struggle with the male-dominated art society began at her very early ages. Her father was a Marxist and believed in gender equality. However, many shaping the art scene did not have the same belief at the time. To illustrate, Minimalism, pioneered by a group of influential male artists, including Donald Judd and Carl Andre, was the dominant movement in American art. Although, it is a fact that Minimalists were not the only group of men that shaped the art scene.

Judy Chicago is an American feminist artist born in Chicago, US in 1939. Photo by Minesh Bacrania.

“Art Can Change the World”

Moreover, in Chicago’s interviews, she tells the story of her early ages and her father’s influence, which you can find below.

“I was repeatedly told that I cannot become a woman and artist too when I was a little girl. From a very early age, my dream was to become an artist and make a contribution to art history. I do not think art can change the world. I think art can educate, inspire and empower people to act.”

When it comes to her father’s influence, surely she inherited an ideal from her father to contribute to the world as you can see below.

“He was a person who was interested in trying to make a contribution to the world and who taught me that was my obligation and at 13 years old with my father died I had to make a decision about whether to believe the world or my own experience and at 13 I learned just because everybody says something doesn’t make it true.”


Judy Chicago always stood behind her ideals. Firstly, to be free of male dominance and stand up to the practice, and the artist got rid of her father’s and husband’s surname. And later, she changed it from Cohen Gerowitz to Chicago in 1970 since she was a native of the city.


In 1972 Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro (Aka Mimi) (Died on June 20, 2015 – Aged 91), who was a friend of Chicago and a pioneer on feminist art movement, came together and established the Womanhouse, a feminist art installation and performance area which was the first public exhibition of Feminist Art.

The front page of the exhibition catalog for “Womanhouse” (January 30 – February 28, 1972)

Womanhouse was set up in an abandoned house in Hollywood, LA. The installation involved 28 female artists who displayed their works through the various rooms in the house. Judy Chicago’s work could be found in the “Menstruation Bathroom” and Miriam Schapiro’s in “The Dollhouse Room.” In fact, on the opening day of the exhibition, men were not allowed to visit.

Judy Chicago (left) and Miriam Schapiro (right), 1972. Image courtesy of the CalArts Institute Archives.


Apart from questioning the authority of the male-dominated Western world and its art society, Judy Chicago is also distinguished for the style reflecting her bold character.
Looking through the artist’s work helps us understand that her long career has never ceased evolving. By which I mean, in the early periods of Chicago’s career, she intensely focused on color. However, the fine arts school didn’t agree with Judy’s choice of bright colors when she was studying. Besides, she even enjoys telling the story about her instructors, who hated her bold and bright use of color.

It is possible to see the transition period that came true in her mature artworks changing from color-focused work to form-focused, Judy Chicago never lost the character of color application unique to herself though.

“Rainbow Pickett” by Judy Chicago, displayed in Brooklyn Museum, 2014. Photo by Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times.

Today, Judy Chicago is considered one of the most influential characters of the 20th century; however, we cannot say the art society welcomed her perspective in a very friendly way. On the contrary, the explicit female content has caused some controversy.
Particularly the “Birth Project”, has been “marginalized” for depicting vaginas in a very explicit way. Therefore, this could simply explain why Judy Chicago defines herself as “an artist and a troublemaker.”

“Feminism is Humanism”

Judy Chicago strongly believed in feminism and explained her view by saying:

“I believe in art that is connected to real human feeling, that extends itself beyond the limits of the art world to embrace all people who are striving for alternatives in an increasingly dehumanized world. I am trying to make art that relates to the deepest and most mythic concerns of humankind and I believe that, at this moment of history, feminism is humanism.”

Judy Chicago while she is working on her most renowned The Dinner Party,1978.


The Dinner Party

Judy Chicago gained worldwide recognition through her outstanding artwork, The Dinner Party (1974-1979), a monumental installation work celebrating the forgotten achievements of women throughout history.
Chicago’s The Dinner Party has the form of a triangular table with symbolic places set for 39 “guests of honor”—representing remarkable women from various periods of Western civilization. Firstly, each guest has her own runner, embroidered with a combination of her name on one side and imagery portraying her achievement on the other. In addition, each place setting includes a glass plate with a butterfly or floral design symbolizing the vulva.

The Dinner Party was created by Judy Chicago in 1979. It is on display in Brooklyn Museum, NYC.

Chicago describes the artwork by saying:  

“As a reinterpretation of The Last Supper from the point of view of women, who, throughout history, have prepared the meals and set the table.”

Since its first display, the work has reached a vast audience; over one million people have visited it. Eventually, The Dinner Party is in the permanent collection at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City.

Most of the curators and critics believe that The Dinner Party has overshadowed the diversity of her art practice. The artist and the troublemaker indeed has tackled various topics ranging from minimalism to land art, death, birth, climate change, extinction, history painting, embroidery, male domination, depression, and the Holocaust.

Each place setting includes a glass plate.
These glass plates are designed to symbolize the vulva.

Birth Project

For the Birth Project (1980-85), Judy Chicago focused her attention on what she believed to be a vital blind spot in the history of art, getting inspired by the quote, “The truth is found in the ignored, forgotten and the left out.”: The representation of birth. Therefore she collaborated with 150 volunteer needleworkers from different parts of the United States and produced 85 needlepoint works that portray women who are pregnant or giving birth while representing them in an indescribable joy and excruciating pain at the same time. In fact, she even witnessed an actual birth to have a better sense of conveying the imagery.

“Birth Tear” by Judy Chicago. Embroidery by Jane Gaddie Thompson. Created as a part of the Birth Project, 1982.
“Logo” from Birth Project, 1984. Designed by Judy Chicago, embroidered by Pamella Nesbit.

Once, Judy Chicago said the project was shaped as a response to Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” on the Sistine Chapel’s ceilings which depicted the Biblical story of the creation in which God gave life to Adam and chose to follow a completely revolutionary path and depicted a female Earth and a female deity as the creator of all the creatures in the world.

“Birth Garments” are on display in Milwaukee, WI, 1985.


Many prominent permanent collections of many major museums included Judy Chicago’s works. You can check some of the important ones in the list below.

The Dinner Party (1979)Brooklyn MuseumBrooklyn, NYC, US
Sky Sun from Flesh Gardens (1971)Museum of Contemporary Art ChicagoChicago, US
Earth Birth (1983)Brooklyn MuseumBrooklyn, NYC, US
The Creation (1984)Museum of Arts and Design (MAD)Manhattan, NYC, US
Birth Garment II: Flowering Scrub (1984)Albuquerque MuseumAlbuquerque, New Mexico, US

Other than those works mentioned above, you can come across Chicago’s works in many other museums including;

  • Art Institute of Chicago
  • British Museum
  • Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
  • Getty Trust and Getty Research Institute
  • Hammer Museum
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York)
  • Moderna Museet (Stockholm)
  • Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles
  • National Gallery (Washington DC)
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
  • Tate Modern
Judy Chicago challenged Michelangelo’s “Creation” with her own. The Creation by Judy Chicago, 1984.
Sky Sun from Flesh Gardens by Judy Chicago, 1971.


Even though it is a little bit hard to find precise information on the worth of Judy Chicago’s work, it is possible to reach out to estimated prices sold at auctions. Namely, “Test Chalice” (from The Dinner Party, 1979) is estimated to have sold for $10,000 – $15,000, while another important work by her “Study for Fresno Fan” is estimated to have sold for $40,000 – $60,000 in Sotheby’s auction house in NYC in 2019.

Through the Flower (1984) is one of the most popular works of Chicago.

Besides the original pieces, you can find the printed artworks of Judy Chicago on various websites. These printed paintings’ prices range from $1,000 up to $60,000. For example, you can buy the printed version of “The Creation” for $10,000 and “Through the Flower,” one of her most popular and beloved works, for $20,500 at the Turner Carrol Gallery.


Judy Chicago: A Retrospective

Judy Chicago: A Retrospective is a major exhibition offering a deep and wide survey of her work from the early sixties to today. Furthermore, it will be on display between August 28, 2021 – January 9, 2022, in the de Young Museum of Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco.

The exhibition includes approximately 130 paintings, prints, drawings, and ceramic sculptures, in addition to ephemera, several films, and a documentary for various periods of her career, therefore she gives the audience the opportunity to go on a journey in her long and astonishingly productive career.

Judy Chicago, On Fire at 80, 2019. Photo by Donald Woodman.

US: Dry Ice, Smoke and Fireworks Archive

Another major exhibition is in the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, named US: Dry Ice, Smoke and Fireworks Archive. In fact, it will be on display between August 28, 2021 – March 27, 2022.

Especially, making a significant contribution to the monumental Land Art movement, Judy Chicago created a series of ephemeral Atmospheres performances in the American West’s deserts by employing colorful smokes and pyrotechnics aiming to “soften that macho Land Art atmosphere.”

Judy Chicago, Birthday Bouquet for Belen Smoke Test, 2019. Photo by Donald Woodman.

Judy Chicago: Child Birth in America

Judy Chicago: Child Birth in America exhibition will be on display until the April of 2022. This exhibition features panels in which some historical knowledge about childbirth is given to the visitors. The exhibition also includes two works from Judy Chicago’s Birth Project. The aim of the exhibition is to draw attention to challenges women face before, during and after childbirth.

Judy Chicago in Glass

Judy Chicago in Glass exhibition will take place at Nina Johnson until January 15, 2022. In the exhibition, Chicago will present her works from the glass series along with drawings. She will also represent her largest glass work she ever made for the first time, Mortality in Glass along with the Zig Zag, a powder-coated steel interpretation of the original minimalist sculpture made in 1965.

Zig Zag by Judy Chicago,2021. It was originally created in 1965 and then reinterpreted in 2021.

Before closing up, If you enjoyed the contemporary art like Judy Chicago’s and the unorthodox methods it brings, check out our post on Refik Anadol as well, a revolutionary artist who works with AI (you will love it!).

And also, you may want to continue to read about significant female figures in the art world, so here is The Two Fridas by Frida Kahlo.

So, that’s it from us for now. We will see you in another. Peace. ✌????????

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