Artist Talk: Judy Chicago

Judy Chicago is an artist, author, feminist, educator, and intellectual. For over five decades, Chicago has remained steadfast in her commitment to the power of art as a vehicle for intellectual transformation and social change, and to women’s right to engage in the highest level of art production. As a result, she has become a symbol for people everywhere—known and respected as an artist, writer, teacher, and humanist whose work and life are models for an enlarged definition of art, an expanded role for the artist, and women’s right to freedom of expression.In 2018, Chicago was named one of Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People," as well as one of the year's "Most Influential Artists," by Artsy.



Presented March 23, 2019 at Nasher Sculpture Center

Leigh Arnold: Good morning everyone, welcome to the Nasher 360 Speaker series. I’m Leigh Arnold assistant curator here at the Nasher and today it is my very distinct pleasure and honor to introduce artist Judy Chicago. Judy Chicago is a feminist artist, author, educator and intellectual. For over five decades she has remained steadfast in her commitment to the power of art as a vehicle for intellectual transformation and social change and women’s right to engage in the highest levels of art production as a result she has become a symbol for people everywhere known as respected as an artist, writer, teacher and humanist whose work in life are models for an enlarges definition of art and expanded role for the artists and woman’s right to freedom of expression, one of the most important artist of her generation, Chicago pioneered feminist art through her groundbreaking program for women at Cal State Fresno in the early 1970s. Her most well-known work The Dinner Party a sculptural installation comprising ceramics and textiles in a power reclamation of over 30 centuries of women’s history has been seen by over 1 million people in 16 exhibitions across 6 countries other work by Chicago examines the Holocaust, power, and powerlessness, brit and creation and so much more. As new generations of women commit to reinvigorating feminism, Chicago’s wisdom and relevance to impossible to ignore in 2018 she was named Times Magazine's most influential people, as well as the year’s most influential artist by Artsy. Chicago’s work is held in collections worldwide including the British Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, The National Gallery, SF MOMA, and Tate London. Chicago's work has been the subject of several recent solo exhibitions at the Pasadena Museum of Art, Institute of Contemporary Art Miami, and the Jessica Silverman Gallery San Francisco. This year Chicago will open solo exhibitions at the National Museum for Women in the Arts Washington DC and Jeffery Deitch Inc. Los Angeles. Joining Chicago in conversation today is writer and sociologist of art and culture Dr. Sarah Thornton, no stranger to the Nasher, Thornton moderated one of the most raucous panel discussions the Nasher has ever presented on artists and the art market in 2016. She has written extensively on the art world in contemporary art for the Sunday Times Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, The New Yorker, Art Forum and the Art Newspaper. She is currently and contributing editor of Cultured magazine and is perhaps best known for her two highly successful and enjoyable books about the art world and artists lives Seven Days in the Art World, 2009 and 33 Artists in Three Acts from 2014. Recently Sarah contributed to the forthcoming publication, Judy Chicago: New View. Today Thornton and Chicago will discuss the artist's 50-year history with 3D forms from Chicago’s biomorphic ceramic and acrylic works from the early 1960s to her hard edge minimalist forms to her turn to environmental earthworks in the 1970’s. Their conversation promises to be an enlightening and in-depth look at Chicago's incredibly diverse and significant career in sculpture. Please join me in welcoming Judy Chicago and Sarah Thornton.

Judy Chicago: Thank you Leigh.

Sarah Thornton: It’s a great pleasure to be here, I love the Nasher it’s such a special place, thank you very much Lee. Thank you to the amazing Jeremy Strick and Anna Smith who's head of education here. It was very hard to curate slides for this talk because Jessica’s sculptural output is generous, sorry, Judy’s

 JC: I give a lot of credits to my dealer, except that she wasn’t born when these works were made, some of them.

ST: Where was I then….do you like my shoes ill just distract you or a minute. Let’s see…Judy’s sculptural output is so diverse so in the end actually some of the early biomorphic abstractions from the early 60s got cut out of the slideshow so I hope I don’t disappoint anyone’s there’s just so much to take about and I want…we are going to try.. I tried to curate around a theme of 3d liberation but actually that probably pertains to almost all of your sculpture so we’re going to start in 1965 with Sunset Squares and it may be hard to see on the slide but this is a multicolor work four different shades. Can you just tell us about your thinking…what went on? How did you come to make Sunset Squares?

JC: Well, the whole period of the 60s in my turn away from any art that revealed my gender led me to make a lot for big scale sculpture including sunset squares; we’re going to look at some others. This period of my work was almost erased until the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time in 2011 and 12 for those of you who don’t know what that was…does anyone here doesn’t know what that was? Pacific Standard Time was this huge undertaking funded by the Getty in LA that involved institutions from San Barbra to San Diego all documenting and celebrating Southern California art from 1965 to 1980 and I was in LA working during those periods, during that period and even though the LA art scene of the early 60’s was unbelievably inhospitable to women there was a spirit of self-invention there and also, something I was talking to Jeremy about last night, the lack of market pressure. There was no art market nobody thought of that in LA then, there was nobody thought they would ever make money as an artist that wasn’t the point of making art. The point of making art was to be taken very seriously and I learned very quickly first in graduate school and then when I emerged from graduate school into the AL art scene that I wouldn’t be taken seriously if my work revealed that it was made by a woman. I tell this to young women that they don’t believe it- the biggest compliment you could get then was to be told that your work looked like it was made by a man so I tried, I tried but I was a failed man.

ST: When I saw this work in person at the ICA Miami I found it funny because the hint of color those pastels feminine shades are funny right when you’re in dialogue with kind of

JC: With Richard Serra 

ST: And Sol LeWitt…

JC: At least Sol, Sol got into color at the end of his life….Richard, not….black, crown, rust.


JC: I think the important thing about this is in retrospective it seems clear why this work was radical and why I couldn’t get anywhere with it and why I had to destroy so much of it because I couldn’t afford to store It and what’s so great that it's being brought back first for ICA then for this big show of my early work that’s going to open in September at Jeffery Deitch new gallery in LA which is like the most beautiful space it’s like 12,000 square feet and my early work will easily fill it because I’ve just made so much work.

ST: So two more sculptures made in the same year, Rainbow Picket which was actually show in New York in a very important show called Primary Structures curated by [inaudible ] probably no accident that he’s African-American and perhaps was desired to include an outside like a woman, I believe you were the only woman… 

JC: There were four women out of the 82 men, like that….which in those days that was a pretty high average. They use to call them one man shows you a reason


ST: And then in Trinity on the right from 1965, I’m intrigued how did Trinity survive? Despite Rainbow Picket, despite its kind….Austria’s provenance about being shown ended up being destroyed as well

JC: I destroyed ten part cylinders which is going to be recreated for Jeffrey’s show Sunset Squares and Rainbow Picket because they were just too big to store but I remember thinking to myself maybe someday there’ll be some interest in this period of my work and so I should try and save some selected works and Trinity was one of them I don’t know exact, I  ant remember that one but I mean I was so in, I was so naïve and idealistic when I was a young artist and in fact  I often talk about the fact that I saw everything through a gender lens and so all the rejections that I experienced and the lack of understanding was, I was sure it was because I was a woman and part of that was true but there was another part that I didn’t appreciate for a very long time which was I was treated like shit but I couldn’t imagine that the men were being treated like that too and accepting it I didn’t understand that artists, by and large, are treated very badly.

ST: Tell me a bit about your rainbow palette I mean today we associate it very much with gay pride LGBTQ rights and was that the case then? Why were you drawn to…

JC: No I was just always drawn to color in fact when you talk about return of the repressed I mean that was one of the things I tried to do was to repress my color sense because when I was at UCLA my male painting teacher hated my color oh my god they hated my color so I tried to pull it back but it kept coming back so that was a very good title that’s just the kind of color I like pinks and lavenders and ivory and turquoise and at UCLA in the 60s the dominant palette was affected, was shaped by an artist from LA who nobody knows I’m sure here called Rico Lebrun and Nathan Oliveria and they liked olive green, burnt sienna, ochre, big on ochre, the hippie pallet, raw umber, burnt umber, dark umber


JC: Actually when I designed the t-shirt for Max Mara it was like a throwback because they had the same damn pictures and colors in their palette they wanted me to use

 ST: So let’s talk about your atmospheres in which you used colored smoke which I think was made with sugar and

JC: Now it’s made with sugar and soda and baking soda and potassium chloride right Donald? This is my husband, photographer Donald Woodman. He’s the one who came in and bossed the sound tech around. Much to the sound guys' consternation I had to say, “Don’t mind him. He’s my husband. He bosses everybody around.” I’m really thrilled that there’s so much interest now in my fireworks, because at that time I started doing them in the late 60s, at a time that’s just inconceivable now, my friends and I could just buy fireworks. We just went out to the beaches, deserts and natural forests and ignited fireworks. People took pictures and Super 8 Films. I slowly got some amount of support for it, but again I couldn’t get enough support. I always thought large. Also the thing about my career, and it’s interesting that you’re looking at sculpture, is that I’ve gone back and forth from two to three dimension throughout my career. In fact, I got my Master’s in painting and sculpture, because I had moved into the sculpture department where there was more support than in the chauvinistic painting department. When my first book Through the Flower came out, there was this professor from UCLA I ran into. He came up to me and he talked in this really hoarse voice and he said, “Judy, I’m not a male chauvinist.” And I’m like, “Really? You should tell that to all the young women who suffered.” I mean, really. It was a time when the male professors didn’t take women students seriously. They saw them as potential bedmates, not potential serious artists. All the young women painted just like the professor. It was really, truly obnoxious. 

ST: These atmospheres for me seem kind of witchy in the most positive way. I used the word enchanted up there because Shakespeare and “Double, double, toil and trouble.” You know, like Macbeth quotes misheard kind of come to mind. Tell us who you were reacting against in part. I’ve put up the Smithson and Serra. 

JC: Well, actually let’s look at them, because I thought that was really interesting that you put them in. I was in L.A., and a lot of the minimal work and land art that was going on in other parts, it’s not like now where everybody knows what everybody's doing. You can go on Instagram and look at work from all over the world. It wasn’t like that. There was a huge divide between the east coast and the west coast. Richard Serra came to L.A. I’d already…

ST: You already started doing the atmospheres.

JC: Yeah. Ours came out of a whole different impulse, not a reaction. In fact, not much of my work has been a reaction. Except The Dinner Party was definitely a reaction to my having learned that women had never made any contributions but to western civilization and European thought. That was definitely a reaction. I was like really? I just set out to find if that was true. I discovered thousands of books that contradicted that idea. But anyway, Richard Serra came to Pasadena. He had a show at the Pasadena Museum where I had a studio and where I was working. In fact, that’s where I did all the big sculptures. He had all these redwoods cut down and piled in the center of the museum, and I was really horrified. Horrified. I had already been for the last couple years doing these snow pieces in which I was trying to soften, feminize and merge with the landscape. I was just so… I said something to him at the opening. The next morning I was in my studio which had a big center staircase. I heard this pounding on the door and I went downstairs. There was Richard Serra with art form in his hand, and he’s like waving it. He said, “You may not like it, but they do!” I mean, it is only recently that people have even begun to look at this alternative way of dealing with the earth. Leah was telling me last night that she’s working on a show of female land artists. There was no language for that. There was no language in the 1960s. Even though I was doing these pieces, and I did quite a few of them. Between 1968 and 1974 when I stopped, I think I did 30. They were mostly small-scale. The biggest piece I did was the last one in 1974 when the Oakland Museum commissioned me to do a piece as part of their sculpture in the city. It was the first time I tried to make an image with fireworks. It was called A Butterfly for Oakland.

ST: It’s beautiful. 

JC: Then I had to stop. It was only direction. My original impulse had nothing to do with Richard Serra or Robert Smithson. My original impulse came from the fact that I was involved in these elaborate color systems to figure out how to use my color sense to harness it, and convey emotive states. My color was locked into either these minimal sculptures or paintings rather than domes. Looking back, I can see that this preceded my making a radical change in my art making. Going back to Fresno I can see that these were a real gesture of liberation. They were particularly started by a piece I did with some other artists on New Year’s Eve. I was always interested in collaboration. I did a lot of collaborations. I organized a lot of artist events in a park in Pasadena. This was an artist event in the street for which I lined the street with fog machines. There was this fog. We would put these big klieg lights. It was for New Year’s Eve when all these people were on the street for the Rose Bowl the next morning. I still remember, I made color wheels for the klieg lights. The klieg lights were pointing up and the fog was wafting up. It turned the fog into color. I was like, “I’m going to do fireworks.” I saw this color in the air transforming and getting rid of the horrible patriarchal environment. 


ST: I won’t ask you a question about it, because we’re going to skip to The Mother Goddess, but just to note that you have resumed making different kinds of atmospheres commissioned by museums in more urban settings such as Be No More, which reveals the word truth out of dry ice. But, we are going to move to…

JC: I never pay attention to schedules, but Sarah is such a good moderator and conversationalist.

ST: Well let’s see, because I really want to make sure we have time for questions. Tell us about Mother Goddess. In 1977 you had an idea for an inflatable Mother Goddess. The drawing of the right… It’s never been made. Tell us about how this work came to you.  

JC: It’s interesting because Colita gave me this book last night called The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels. In the early 1970s when I was all involved in the research for The Dinner Party, I read a lot of the literature that was coming out including the Elaine Pagels book about how all early civilizations revered and worshipped goddesses. Then slowly, you can actually trace the rise of patriarchy through the changes in deities. When I was working on The Dinner Party, I actually made a little porcelain small goddess, which prospect has resurrected now in these soaps and in a little bronze sculpture. At the time of course, I read about Niki de Saint Phalle Hon, which I thought was fantastic. So I thought it would be great to revive the tradition of goddess worship. I’m a huge believer in the fact that either we have to conceive divinity as beyond gender or equal gender. As long as we worship a male god, we are basically supporting patriarchy. 


ST: Tell us about scale, because probably visually, your model goddess, more than other goddesses, I mean there are loads of old goddesses out there, is the very famous Venus of Willendorf.  

JC: But it’s tiny. 

ST: Exactly. Interestingly, someday I’ll write a paper on it, but having interviewed Jeff Koons in the past and written about his work, he often has a long long list of people with whom he’s in dialog. Crazily, I’ve attended lectures where he listed 40 or more artists with whom he’s in dialogue and not a single one was a woman. It’s remarkable.

JC: But that doesn’t mean he can’t rip us off.


ST: I have to try to get an audience with him. I’m actually pretty sure he must have seen The Dinner Party in Brooklyn when it showed. He may have been familiar with your work before that, but at the very least, people didn’t miss that show in Brooklyn at the time. Especially someone like him so interested in sex and gender. I think actually, understanding his Made in Heaven and understanding the Celebration series all that kind of thing, you really have to go towards feminist works of the earlier period to really understand Jeff Koons.

JC: Let me just say one thing that just occurred to me, which I don’t want anybody to ask me if things have changed. Okay? Because this tells the entire story. This piece is realized in addition, and mine is just a concept. This is in 2019. 

ST: Actually, Jeff Koons’ Balloon Venus is available in five unique colors and I don’t know what the asking price would be, but well in excess of several million. Let’s just talk for a moment about The Dinner Party. Such a monumental installation not just for one, but for any artist of the time. It is not just a large-scale installation; it is a complete exhibition in which you designed the wall text, entrance banners and the credits for the many ceramicists and needle workers who had contributed to its realization. Tell us just in a nutshell, how did this idea come to you? How did it happen?

JC: Well you saw already that I’ve thought big. What I was encountering was, I was encountering a lack of support. You know, I started doing atmospheres, I wanted to get bigger and I couldn’t get the support. I started doing big sculpture and I had to destroy some of it because I didn’t get the support. It was very fortunate that at the end of the 60s and beginning of the 70s, the Women’s Movement started. There was an audience like today, hungry for images that affirmed women. I had always been interested in collaboration although I’ve gone back and forth from working alone based on what the work needed. I don’t want to spend too much time on The Dinner Party, because for so long it blocked out the rest of my work. I’m really grateful for the attention it brought me, but I’m also very glad that the rest of my production is coming into view. I used to say I hope I live long enough for people to understand that The Dinner Party is only one work in a really large body of art. The Dinner Party came out of my own discoveries. It was very confusing to me to be told I couldn’t be a woman and an artist, which I was told all the time in the 60s. As I said before, I learned in college in a European history class according to my professor who was a very respected historian, the prevailing point of view was that women had never made any contributions. I was a very ambitious young woman. I wanted to make a contribution to art and art history. I started looking back to see if other women had encountered the same challenges I was experiencing and how they had overcome them. I discovered all this information. It was like opening Queen Tut’s tomb. It was one of the reasons that I stayed involved with The Dinner Party until its goal was achieved, which was permanent housing. I felt a responsibility to the information that I had discovered and symbolized. Actually, The Dinner Party had traveled in its first tour and had a viewing audience of a million people. But since its permanent housing in Brooklyn, it accounts for 20% of the traffic, so there’s been another million and a half people. By now it’s been seen by probably two and a half million or three million people. It has taught all over the world. It taught me the power of art. In fact, on my Instagram the other day, there was a post from an art history professor in New Zealand saying she was bringing her class to see The Dinner Party.


ST: Small footnote, I have been a big fan of Judy Chicago since I saw The Dinner Party in Montreal in 1981 when my mother took me as a 16 year old. I was a budding feminist. It’s still an inspiration. Just quickly then, there are 39 plates around the triangular table. As we move into the present, the plates become more three-dimensional. Following our 3D liberation theme, I think that’s a remarkable aspect of The Dinner Party. Did you know that from the beginning that you would have the plates rising up so to speak?

JC: No, at first I was going to do 100 flat plates on the wall. Then I was going to do 25 women who are eaten alive. Meanwhile, I was working on the early flat images. Then I went to visit a china painter and she and her family had not eaten at their dining room table for, I don't know, 100 years. No not that long. But she had done a complete place setting for 12. Every cup, every plate, every bowl and every pitcher she had painted, and had it as a permanent display on the dining room table. I was like whoa, plates belong on a table. Then once I worked by myself for the first year and a half, so I was still formulating the idea. Then as I was still researching, women came into greater relief as we got closer to the present. So I reflected that with the plates rising up. Then my troubles began. 


ST: We’ll leave that for later. It’s interesting looking at your work through the filter of sculpture because there is so much virtual space in your two-dimensional works. Your abstractions are very optical really, and are integrated into things like Through the Flower, the painting on the left. Then there is a great love of three dimensionality in your later work. This is embroidery…

JC: This one actually combines painting and embroidery. It’s from a series called Resolutions: A Stitch in Time that I did from 1994 to 2000 with some of my most accomplished needle workers. By the way, like in Through the Flowers, it’s always interesting when I talk with you Sarah, I have insights I never have at other times. It’s probably because you’re so smart. But actually, my color like in this painting has more to do with Seurat and pointillism. This is color opposites, and what color opposites do optically. You have to remember I grew up looking at La Grande Jatte and I often say…

ST: In Chicago, Seurat’s famous La Grande Jatte is in the Art Institute of Chicago.

JC: I often say that someday some art historian is going to look at my color in relationship to Seurat.

ST: Next talk I’m putting up a Seurat.


JC: Anyway, this is a Resolutions reinterprets traditional (inaudible, 34:25) for the future. This was a time some right-wing guy named William Bennett was making a fortune with these old (inaudible, 34:38) which he was using to go backwards especially on women’s issues. I’m like, you know what? You can use those same (inaudible, 34:44) to go forward. I tried,

ST: You also have a long history of working with bas-relief, and making works on paper three-dimensional. This cast paper, the one of your butterflies submerged and then Double Head with Blue Eye No. 1 is from your Power Play series which looked at...

JC: The concept of masculinity 30 years before there was queer theory and gender theory. It was met with complete silence until 2012 or 2010 when my Santa Fe Gallery wanted to show it. They were going to do a catalog, and I called up Jonathan Katz cold. He’s like the most prominent queer theorist in America. He started the first Gay and Lesbian Studies program at Yale, and I thought he was the perfect person to write. He told when Power Play was shown in Salon 94. We did a panel in New York that Jonathan was on with Michael Kimmel who started the first Masculinity Studies program in America. Anyway, Jonathan was telling this story about how, this was just 2018, how in 2012 all his friends said when he would say he was working on me they’d say, “Oh, she’s such an essentialist.” And he says, “What a difference 6 years in the Me Too movement has made.” Because suddenly academics have confronted reality. Yes, gender may be a shifting reality, but not for women when they’re raped. They’re not raped because of a shifting gender construct. They’re raped because they’re women. 

ST: Yes. Well one of the things I find uncanny about the Double Head with Blue Eye No. 1 is it looks a little bit like Donald Trump. Interestingly, it was oddly his declaration that he could grab any woman, or at least this particular woman, by the pussy. It liberated the word pussy and newscasters all of a sudden could use the word. If there’s one good thing he did, it might be allowing us to use that word in polite society again. 

JC: Actually in Miami when Basel did these interviews with me, I was talking about the one thing I agree with Donald Trump about. Fake news. I have been the victim of fake news and so has my work. The idea that The Dinner Party degrades women. Really fake news, right? 

ST: Or that it’s pornographic because actually Congress at one point did have a conversation about The Dinner Party. There was some movement to bring it to D.C. Congress got wind of it and there were various senators who are still around I believe. 

JC: It was congressmen. I think it was one of those congressmen who is now a senator. Anyway, they referred to it as pornographic. 

ST: The Birth Project is one work, one needlepoint, out of 85 works. There are 85 works in the Birth Project. One thing I was saying in Basel, I was talking about some of the work that was up there, because they had a whole wall of Birth Project. Number one, fake knows the Birth Project is needlepoint. Needlepoint is one type of needle work. The Birth Project is embroidery, quilting, macramé, needlepoint, petit point and filly crochet. It’s a whole range of techniques. What does it mean when somebody says needlepoint? It means that there’s nothing inherently challenging about looking at the technical range in both The Dinner Party and the Birth Project. My conversation with Jeffrey Deitch at Basel, followed a conversation next door where everybody was bemoaning the prices and differential in the auction market, which I know you’ve talked about. So somebody asked me about it. I’m like, why is this the focus of our attention? The price differential is the result of the fact that what women do is not considered important. Oh it’s just needlepoint. It’s all needlepoint. I said “Let me tell you about how birth [inaudible, 39:57] is done in small embroidery. I said, “Birth [inaudible, 40:03] was embroidered over my drawing by a woman in Houston named Jane Katie Thompson who devised a method of stitching to translate my blends, in which she used 9 needles simultaneously.” Each one strung with three strands of thread which first of all, she had to strip apart because DMC fluffs comes in 6 strands. She had to cut in 18-inch blanks. Then she would systematically thread her needle with a blend. Then she would blend. When she got to the end of a blend she would do it again. Now let’s talk about the amount of time in art history that’s given to the paint strokes of the great male painters. Why is equal time not given to the incredible array of needle techniques that women have used for centuries. Because what women do isn’t important. It’s reflected in the critical response to my work over the course of years. It’s only because there has been a significant cultural change that now what used to be, as I say, I went from shit to shine-ola. What used to be shit is suddenly shine-ola. But until that changes, until the fact that Franny [inaudible, 41:34] in this needlepoint of The Crowning… I used to say when I was doing The Birth Project, if men had babies there would be thousands of images of the crowning, but of course there aren’t. There’s never been any discussion about the technical achievement of this piece, nor has there ever been any art historical look at the fact that around the border, and I decided to use it when Franny was stitching on it, she wrote the names of all four of her great-grandmothers and the number of children that they had to commemorate a tradition in her family that she felt connected to and used the piece to express.

ST: It’s amazing actually. I love the series. I particularly like the composition of this work and the fact that your collaborator and the making of it who executed your image included her own family history around the edges. I find it very moving actually, especially given the content of the work.

JC: I try in my collaborations to make room for my collaborators to have agency. 

ST: I want to move quickly to ceramics, because we have one of your Two-Faced Toby Mugs on the right. Ceramics are obviously a key part of The Dinner Party. Ceramics are an example where in different cultures; they have a different status in the hierarchy. So in Asia, art history embraces the whole history of ceramics. It is an elevated medium, unlike here where it’s denigrated as a craft. Can you tell us a little bit about the Toby Mugs

JC: The Toby Mugs are really taken out of context of the last 10 years of my work where I’ve been working in glass, which we’ll get to next. One of the reasons I got interested in glass was that when I was working in California in the 60s, I was there when Peter Wilkinson, John Mason brought ceramics over from its crafts origins into high art...and I found glass at a point where I thought the same thing needed to be done that glass was kind of embedded in a decorative tradition and it had this incredible aesthetic potential just like China painting know for me... when I first discovered it in the 70’s and I wanted to participate in and help bring about bringing glass into a higher art context, it’s been a real challenge more of a challenge in ceramics, but anyway so the series that the Toby Mugs come from is a series called the Toby heads and it was my second series in glass and in it I began to bring back some of the techniques I’ve used before like ceramics and bronze and so like my new project that's going to open in September at the National Museum of Women in the Arts is called The End of a Meditation on Death and Extinction and it combines glass, ceramic, and bronze. The Toby Mugs- I was doing these heads and I got very interested in one of the heads I cast which was a woman named Toby and then somebody told me about Toby mugs which are traditional English ceramic cups and I’m like how can I not do that (laughs) I did a series of Toby Mugs and this is our final slide before we open up to questions so get ready and when...maybe we’ll take a few questions at a time and then you can okay and so here we have two glass works very different styles of glass… three dimensions again this goes right across because the one on the left, this is from my first series which all had to do with hand gestures because I’ve got interested in how one hand gesture can mean offering or stop...mean different things and I got interested in etch glass and cast glass. I started out in you know what [inaudible, 46:15] is outside is the glass goal that was started by David. Dale Chihuly I went there as an artist in resident... when I was studying China painting I discovered that a lot of the China painters also painted on glass. It’s a type of painting that’s not known or used in the glass world and so I was interested to see if It could be used on etched or cast glass which they didn't know and took me a year and a half to find out, but of course you know I’ve often been on the outside edge of technology I like that. I like pushing the boundaries of materials, so the double clear hand out hands off is actually two panes of glass etched on the inside and painted and fired and the grand flaming fist which is two feet high and its cast actually in Prague and to understand the technical challenge of grand flaming fist. It was in the kiln for two months and when I painted it, which I spray-painted it, it was in the kiln for another week so the challenge of doing this kind of painting and firing it on glass is really, really fascinating.

ST: Would you say that you’re...the appeal of glass for you relates to its transparency and fragility? Particularly when you're embracing content that's about power?

JC: Yes is the answer.

ST: Good, because it’s time for questions. 

JC: We actually did it; we made the time up!

ST: Pretty well


ST: So let’s maybe...we can entertain a few questions. It would be great to have as many question as possible maybe we take a two or three...yea, I see two hands over here….I see three hands so we take them and then...okay and Judy can answer them.

JC: or you Sarah.

ST: Or I can answer that... 

Thank you for the wonderful dialogue. I have a question concerning craft and it’s two parts- first of all your own role in the works as your relationship to craft...are you practicing raft and secondly does craft become valorized only when it becomes considered fine art or can it have its own ontology of in its own sense of existence?

JC: Let’s just take this question, okay...again...I’d love to know your answer to this to Sarah...but again this is a context question, okay, you cannot separate the way we view craft and the distinction between art and craft out of a historic context and the fact that what women do has been considered unimportant and what men do has been considered important and the distinction between art and craft has been a highly gendered distinction so I myself do not feel like I’m capable of totally change history at that level what I have tried to do is to bring the same level of rigor I would bring to a spray-painted canvas to glass to needlework to ceramics and to…that's my way of trying to deal with that, does that answer your question? 


JC: Who...Introduce yourself actually, who are you?

Charissa Terranova, I’m a professor of Art History in Dallas

ST: Thank you, next...

Judy Hi, my name’s Heather thank you so much for being here and sharing your work and your wisdom. I so appreciate what you’ve done for quote-unquote Women’s work and craft as it's often called and how you’ve brought this type of media to a broader forum for serious conversation. It’s incredible the number of different techniques you incorporate in some of these works and not long ago I read a reference from Margaret Atwood about quilts in particular being not just quote-unquote women’s work and these talismans to protect but also as flags and banners of power and individuality in an otherwise domestic environment where women can both have power but also be endangered and I’m wondering if you can speak to that?

ST: Can we take another question and then we’ the interest of lots of questions...

Hi there, My name is Hayden and I’m a student a Grapevine High School [Inaudible, 51:18] My question is concerning the atmosphere works, it's been said that it could be interpreted as a commentary on the rainbow herbicides like Agent Orange is that a valid interpretation? Is that a purpose in making those works? 

JC: [Inaudible 51:40]

ST: Well, as I understood it, so you...when you look at the clouds of smoke you think about agent orange or orange and toxic’s a negative association for you with the smoke?

I wrote an essay recently as research and in my research I saw an art historian who was interpreting it as political commentary on the use of those by the US…

JC: ...two different questions here...answer them in one….why don’t you take this one?


JC: Because it's a question that draws on art historical understanding.

ST: Well I would actually just rephrase it as a slightly different question because I don’t have an answer. My question would be, Vietnam was going on between 68 and 74 when you were working on the atmosphere and obviously that was a very important context for us...everyone mind of...all artists at that there any…is there any anti-war commentary in the work?

JC: I would say the two piece that you didn’t show from that period that are probably the closet that I could never do...well one I could do that was in the desert, nobody was there but I did a piece in a city on a bridge and it looks exactly like a terrorist attack and I could never do it today okay because I couldn't get permits like I said. The other one is the piece called Emulation which I think is actually in that show that just opening in Washington isn't it just about artist in the Vietnam War it's based on two things is based on both self-immolation of the months during Vietnam during the war but it's also linked to what used to be called a custom called [inaudible 53:57] in India which was a very sanitized way of describing a practice where he in-laws throw the widow into the flames so they were direct relations between however what has been really terrifying it's kind of like how power play like when I posted their faces of man with the senators at the Kavanaugh hearing and it was just I hated it that in the thirty years ago i painted something I was watching on television in the same way some of my firework smoke pieces...I mean when I was looking at the pictures of the California wildfires they look just like some of my atmospheres so there was definitely both an effort to soften and feminized the landscape but also a recognition that like Richard Serra chopping down the redwoods was an implies that was going to lead the human race to destroy itself. Now I have the other question

ST: How would you say...I’m not sure what the question was but I think it had to do with quilts on the one hand…

JC: Oh feminized power

ST: ...versus flags and banners in the different uses of textiles...

JC: Well actually I studies...I hope this addresses your question...I studied the history of needlework when I was working on The Dinner Party and the second book called Embroidering our Heritage actually tell which deals with the runners actually tells women's history through the runner because what I learned was that you could see in the needlework the same rises and falls in power of women at the table the plates chronicle and there's no question you know like [inaudible, 56:03] the high art of the middle ages was embroidery you know when it was done by men it was related to money and power and royalty and then needlework went into the hands of women at the same time that women lost educational rights and they also lost the opportunity for any art training  and so they become the recipient with the Renaissance they are developed this idea that women were incapable of infusing a design with life only men could do that therefore women were the recipients of male design that they would then stitch so you can definitely needlework and textile and power is a very important subject.

ST: Lets...we have five more minutes cause we started five minutes late so I'm taking the liberty of commanding another five minutes lets...let's have a few question and sometimes we can roll them together

Thank you, my name is Paul Hunter I’m a retired professor, I’ve forgotten most of what I’ve professed


JC: Are you glad about that?

Oh I'm so happy


JC: [inaudible, 57:25]

My question is this...that Cleve Jones in creating the AIDS quilt project references you The Dinner Party and Maya Lin's Vietnam Memorial as directly influential to that memorial. My question is not if you were influenced by Maya Lin...

JC: She’s younger than me, you forget she wasn’t around

Oh yeah that’s right, but what correspondences do you see between her work and yours and she's done many other things since the Vietnam memorial is...would you just tell me what corresponding you would acknowledge…

JC: First I want to talk about the AIDS quilt because the AIDS quilt start in the bay area and that were I did the Birth Project and that’s where The Dinner Party premiered and actually the AIDS quilt doesn't come out so much in The Dinner Party but the initiative I started the following year in Houston when The Dinner Party began to be show in this kind of grassroots fueled movement around the world and I was getting ragged on not including this person and not including that person and I was running when I had this idea and I thought...okay fine, let's do a community based project where people can do their own quilts two feet side triangular quilts anybody they want. That's what influenced the AIDS and it ended up through the flower of my small nonprofit having to deal with 700 of these which finally we gifted to the University of Louisville to take care of. In terms of Maya Lin, I greatly admire her work but our aesthetic could not be further apart- she's very abstract and conceptual and I approach similar content for example her most recent work is the with the same The End deals with, extinction and death but we’ve approached that very, very differently

Thank You.

ST: Front row here, who are you?

[Inaudible 1:00:03] 

Mine is more of a practical question in terms of the glass pieces that were shown. I’m curious...and I guess the crocheted piece where the woman was blending the different colors…

JC: Needlepoint, needlepoint…

ST:  Needlepoint

JC: No that was...the nine needles, no that was embroidery, okay…

Do you...did you make an artwork that had all the colors...I mean you made that and you said would you please translate this into something that was knitted or crocheted and the glass did you draw that or did...did...

JC: You mean what’s my process?

Please, yes

JC: Since I’ve worked in so many techniques many of which I've done in my own hand like China painting all the plates of The Dinner Party, designing, doing drawing for all the needlework first of all in The Dinner Party I discovered something that was like a revolution I cannot sew or stitch which Donald will attest to because when we got married 33 years ago I use it, throw away my shirt if the button fell off...


JC: ...and Donald’s like that’s the end of that okay...but I discovered in The Dinner Party even though I can't sew or stitch I have this unaccountable ability designed for needlework. In terms of how the Birth Project work was done or The Dinner Party runners or resolutions all of which combine as we go along more openly combined painting and needlework is that in the Birth Project I began to experiment not only with providing the base on which the stitches worked and the color range and supervising the production and then I wanted...I started exposing the painting and blending painting and needlework so that was imperceptible and in glass...all the painting I’ve done myself and you know glass is inherently a collaborative process Dale Chihuly had a huge team to create his glass so I took hands out hands off that was etched by some very accomplished etchers in Santé Fe and then painting from my drawings and then painted by me and the same thing with the fifths I actually had to go Prague to supervise the cold work which is when they take the piece when they take the piece out of the kiln and do the final grinding and shaping of the forms because their investment process was very crude and so I had to spend a lot of time with the artisans helping them make the hands you know like do the details...because there's detail in everything in terms of art I mean you understand [inaudible, 1:03:07] but that's the process I really, really love. I love that process and I love the process of pushing past the limits a medium, it's actually one of the reasons a lot of people have wanted to work with me it's like for example in the end I worked on the bronzes with probably one of the best metal fabricators I have ever met and I have ever worked with and I’ve cast bronze before and in the one of the two reliefs he was really challenged on the large one it was like I said to him I’m going to really push your limits and he's like okay and then he's like I'm cursing you every day!


JC: But I did it to...I'm going to miss working with him. I’m trying, I’m going to work in bronze [inaudible 1:04:00] but I love that process, that’s where I’m sure you do too if you’re an architect.

ST:  On that note our time is up and I hope you will join me in thanking Judy 

JC: And Sarah 


JC: Wait, wait, wait, Laura come here. This is Laura Curry, she’s the first person who started making absolutely fabulous works, edition works of my work that you could have, much more affordable and she's brought some of those...also lots of different materials. So she’s brought some of those The Dinner Party plates and pieces she’s been developing and I’m going to sign them and Laura’s going to be there to help.


This transcript has been automatically generated and reviewed by a human. For the most accurate record, please consult the recording of this program. 


Nasher Sculpture Center
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