I’m a great believer in that old saw; a picture is worth a thousand words. Hence the inclusion of so many photographs, which are intended to give a sense of my whirlwind activities during the last six months. In July, The Toby Heads exhibition (my most recent series in glass) premiered at the LewAllen Railyard Gallery in Santa Fe. Laura Addison, curator at the NM Museum of Art, wrote in the gallery brochure: “The Toby Heads series includes portrait busts of a single model who came to embody...a meditation upon vulnerability, mortality and the power of the human spirit. Though the castings replicate the particular physiognomy of the sitter, Toby Shor, she came to represent a universal humanity”.
In early September, Setting the Table: Preparing Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party opened at the Evansville Museum in Indiana. This is a traveling exhibition organized by ACA, my New York gallery, and subsequent venues are listed in “Get Out Your Calendar”. Included in the show are three test plates owned by the Art Divas, Inc., a group of women from Calgary, Canada, who have incorporated with the purpose of acquiring and placing works of art by women in major museums. They were last seen in our previous newsletter riding the New York subway after my private tour of The Dinner Party. (During that memorable trip, they regaled fellow passengers with song.)
A week after we got home from Evansville, we left for Montreal where, on September 22nd, a large glass show opened at Le Musee des maitres et artisans, a museum in a former church. The highlight of that trip was seeing Rainbow Shabbat (my large, stained glass installation recasting the Friday night Jewish Sabbath dinner as an image of global sharing) placed directly under a traditional Christian stained glass window. On a more personal note, we celebrated Donald’s 65th birthday at a private dinner in one of Montreal’s finest restaurants.
On Sunday, October 3rd, art historian (and my collaborator) Frances Borzello and I did a public dialogue at the Brooklyn Museum as part of the launch of our new book, Frida Kahlo: Face to Face. Two days later, I presented an artist’s talk at the Jewish Museum in conjunction with their show, “Shifting the Gaze: Feminism and Painting”, in which my work is included. The following week, the exhibition “A Stitch in Jewish Time” opened at the Hebrew Union College Museum in the Village. There are two works of mine in that show, including The Creation tapestry, woven by my long-time collaborator, Audrey Cowan who - with her husband Bob - were on hand for the festivities.
That same week, my first survey show, Surveying Judy Chicago, 1970-2010, opened at ACA to a crowd that the gallery believed to be the largest ever to attend an opening in the 75 years of the gallery’s existence. All I know is that it was a blur; I barely got up from the signing table where I was autographing both exhibition catalogs and the Frida Kahlo book. Whenever I looked up, there seemed to be an ever-expanding line of friends, well-wishers and fans. I have to admit to being deeply gratified by the overwhelming response to my work everywhere it was on display.
Before I left New York, I did a private Dinner Party tour in support of Through the Flower; held a luncheon event at ACA for supporters of the Schlesinger Library for the History of Women in America (at Radcliffe/Harvard), where my paper archives are held; and had a wonderful conversation with Catherine Morris, curator of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum. This event was at a private home, sponsored by the W Salon, a new enterprise that continues the long tradition of women-organized salons, this one aimed at stimulating feminist discourse. A highlight of the evening was that Elizabeth Sackler was on hand to introduce Catherine and me to an enthusiastic crowd.
Since New York, I’ve done Kahlo book events (which involve a powerpoint presentation, questions and answers and a book signing) at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.; the Chicago Public Library; and at the Inn of Loretto in Santa Fe, sponsored by Garcia Street Books. An interesting aside is that I’ve known Eva and Edward Borins (who own the bookstore) since the early 1980's when they owned a string of bookstores in Toronto. I did a book signing at one of the stores when The Dinner Party was at the Art Gallery of Ontario, which is in Toronto.
In December, I will be presenting more book events at the San Diego Museum of Art; the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco; and the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. (For details, see “Get Out Your Calendar”). The book tour will conclude in June 2011, when we go to England for several book events. And because I have so many shows along with a new book, this entire period has been punctuated by media interviews which - in addition to all the public events - have been tiring. At the same time, I am very fortunate that there is so much interest in my work, not only in this country but around the world.
Now, before you can think that I can finally take a rest, let me tell you that 2011 promises to be as busy as this year has been, in part because of “Pacific Standard Time”, an upcoming initiative by the Getty Foundation in collaboration with almost fifty art institutions across Southern California. The goal of this ambitious undertaking (scheduled from October 2011 to April 2012) is to document and celebrate the vibrant history of Southern California art.
Because my roots as an artist derive from Southern California, I am exceedingly pleased to be a part of this project. I am hopeful that it will help create a greater awareness of my California roots, something that I feel strongly about because -despite its macho overtones - the Los Angeles art scene of the 1960's and 70's provided fertile ground for experimentation, self-invention, and ultimately for me, the opportunity for a radical rethinking of contemporary art including its content, its audience and its goals.
Also, it was out of this climate that Through the Flower was born, an organization that evolved from a small, somewhat chaotic studio structure to become an important part of the history of the Feminist art movement, a movement that - eventually - will come to be seen as the most significant art movement of the second half of the twentieth century. Moreover, one of the points we make in the Kahlo book is that her work can be said to have prefigured the Feminist art movement. This movement also brought Kahlo into prominence.
But until the Feminist art movement, artists (myself included) did not have the freedom to freely express ourselves as women. Honoring and extending this freedom and the gains that it has brought has been an integral part of Through the Flower’s mission. As I like to say, we may be small, but our achievements have been mighty, thanks in large measure to all our loyal friends and supporters.