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Houston Breakthrough 1980-02
Page 19
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Houston Breakthrough 1980-02 - Page 19. February 1980. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. April 23, 2014. http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/371/show/359.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

(February 1980). Houston Breakthrough 1980-02 - Page 19. Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/371/show/359

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Houston Breakthrough 1980-02 - Page 19, February 1980, Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed April 23, 2014, http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/371/show/359.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Houston Breakthrough 1980-02
Publisher Breakthrough Publishing Co.
Date February 1980
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women--Texas--Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Houston, Texas
Genre (AAT)
  • periodicals
Language English
Physical Description 32 page periodical
Format (IMT)
  • image/jpeg
Original Item Location http://library.uh.edu/record=b2332724~S11
Digital Collection Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters
Digital Collection URL http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Repository URL http://info.lib.uh.edu/about/campus-libraries-collections/special-collections
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the “About” page of this website.
File name index.cpd
Item Description
Title Page 19
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women--Texas--Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the “About” page of this website.
File name femin_201109_557as.jpg
Transcript JUDY on making room for women's images BY DIANE BROWN and NANCY LANE FLEMING Nancy Lane Fleming: Judy, were you surprised that The Dinner Party is coming to Clear Lake City? Did that seem an unlikely place to you? Judy Chicago: No, I think women's hunger for images that affirm us crosses not only state boundaries but national boundaries. It was really good that the women in Houston who initiated the idea of The Dinner Party coming here had the support of the University of Houston of Clear Lake City and of Dean Calvin Cannon, because that facilitated bringing it. Women in other cities have not had that level of support. Such an interface between a women's group and an institution is a very positive step, because it means that institutions begin to be responsive to our needs and begin to say yes-, we will make room for women and women's images and women's explorations. In most of the other cities, women have been organizing to try to bring the piece and it happened that Houston was the first place for it to work. I feel like that's a statement that women were not about to let the system totally block out The Dinner Party. NLFPeople are getting so involved. I'm so eager to see the needlework, to see the plates. I'm tired of looking at pictures. One of the things I thought about asking you tonight is how close to it can we get? JC: Not close enough to touch it. NLFThat's what I figured. Is there going to be a rail? JC: Yes, there is a guard rail that wraps around the piece, that protects it. The guard rail turns out to be a perfect kneeling rail, which I never realized, but a lot of people did actually kneel on it and look closer. I've been asked a lot of times about people not being able to see the backs of the runners. We could make a lot of money with a binoculars concession. NLF:Can you see across the room? JC: It's really big, and you can't see the backs of the runners across the room. There is a certain kind of meaning in that. As I said to this woman who asked me, I said you don't think I spent six years making a piece and didn't think about the fact that some of the images would be hard to look at? NLFM/hat does that mean, Judy Chicago, that you can't see? JC: Well, it means I wanted people to want to know, I mean to want to know about all this stuff and all this Tightness and all this heritage we have and to not be able to have it all, be- Nancy Lane Fleming co-hosts Breakthrough on the Air, a weekly program broadcast every Wednesday at 6:30 on KPFT-FM. Diane Brown is a working feminist. This edited interview was recorded for Breakthrough on the Air. cause that is actually where we are at. We have been so deprived of all this information that I wanted people to experience that. The question about whether the community-based support here is going to change the experience-that's something I can only find out. One of the most important things is that women, not only in Houston but all over the country, have had the experience I had, which was trying to get something they wanted and believed in and encountering resistance. Diane Brown: You made a statement in The Dinner Party book that part of the trick that's played on women nowadays is to tell us that our equality has already been achieved, we've got it, we've got laws that protect us, etc., etc. Do you think that your success, this far, and what The Dinner Party has achieved this far is part of that battle? Is there resistance on that level because of the success? JC: It is really important to be clear about what success is. I think we have to look to the 19th century and the first wave of the women's movement in America. There was a profound change in consciousness and some of that change became institutionalized and the rest of it was wiped out of history. So now what we are experiencing is a profound change in consciousness which we have all been a part of creating and I have tried to contribute to that with my work in The Dinner Party, and with my work in the whole last decade. The fact that we're even having to deal with getting the piece shown, as opposed to getting the piece housed permanently, says something about where we are. It could still be totally erased. The level of the struggle now is just to get our point of view visible. There is a whole other step, which is to make sure that it never gets erased again. NLFflne of the things that impresses me about what you have done is that you have documented your own work. Not only have you added all this historical research to what women now have accessible to us, but there is a documentary film which hasn't come out yet. JC: It will be ready for the Houston opening. It's called Right Out of History. It's a 90-min- ute color feature. NLFdt seems to me that you have gone to such an extent to protect this effort from being erased-I'm not going to say that that assures it won't be, but that you have made such an effort. JC: I tried to conceive of the whole project, which is bigger than the piece. The project is the piece, the two books and the film. And I'm glad I conceived of it that way because, you are right, it protected it. It protected the piece from being blocked out and obscured. And there is something else-in the art library last week, I almost made a scene. There's ail these young girls in there, right? So I'm going to the shelves looking for the history of needlework, OK? What there is, is seven shelves on the history of tapestry. Of course, by the time the tapestry industry had been developed, women had been pushed out of weaving and it was mostly men who made and designed tapestry. So there is seven shelves on that. The depth, the level of scholarship is nowhere near the same. I bet you that most of these young girls are sitting here writing about men and what men did. It's like paying attention to ourselves is the first step, because what makes something important? Seven shelves of books on it. Who tells us that we have to write books about what the men are doing? Who tells us we can't spend our energy documenting ourselves? NLFTalking about needlework makes me think you've chosen in china-painting and needlework the two major media of the dinner party and then in using the concept of the dinner party you've chosen traditional feminine things- women's work-for what is being seen as a major feminist art statement. Could you talk a little bit about what it means to have chosen those media? JC: Well, I think you have to look at my work generally. There are two things that are very strong in my work. One is an interest in fringe media generally. You know, I worked in plastics, I worked in fireworks. I worked in fringe media because it allows a new point of view much more easily than bronze. By the time you look at a bronze sculpture you bring in all the associations and it's difficult to break away. Number one, china painting and needlework are media that have really been ignored by major artists, because they are not taken seriously enough. They have really closed off the possibility of seeing what incredible visual potential those media have. Also, it's to honor women's traditional crafts. I meant it and chose it as homage to women's traditional work. But the other thing in my work is turning around negative things, as opposed to pretending they don't exist. It's like confronting the nature of the vagina, which has all these negative, demonic associations. I chose to use the word cunt because it had much more of that meaning and I tried to address it on a metaphysical level. OK, what does that mean if a cunt is lousy and I have one? What does that mean about me? NLF: Is this what you mean when you say you want to make the feminine holy? JC: Yes, of course. It is a matter of turning around what has been considered negative and looking at it from another point of view. Who did the cooking, who set the table? What do we consider holy, what do we consider evil? We learn a lot about the values of our culture, by turning things around. So if you take a form of art that is not taken seriously, like china-paint ing or needlework, as a fine art, you look at it and begin to say is there something here other than what we all assume is here? Sometimes we can come up with a lot of new material. DB: In that context, are you doing something totally different, or are you connecting in with what all good art does. Is there one thing that all good art has in common? Does The Dinner Party fit there or is it totally revolutionary? JC: Well, I think in a way that is four questions. I have a friend who is an art historian and she got into a gigantic fight with another art historian about The Dinner Party because he dismissed it as not art. And she said, how come it is OK for Poussin to make a painting honoring all the great men of history or Raphael to make a painting honoring all the great classical men of history, all the great geniuses of male civilization, how come that is OK and that is art, but when a woman does the same thing that is not art? So it is revolutionary in the sense that a woman had never been from a woman's point of view. It is not revolutionary in terms of the history of art. It is very much in the context of the history of art that an artist chooses to compose a picture which deals with the history of art or the history of culture. It just tells us that women are not supposed to do that, and that is a very important issue. Who will be the prime symbol makers? Who will make the symbols that tell us about reality? What we came up against is that issue of who will be the prime symbol makers. It is OK for women to make formal art. It is OK for women to participate now in the prevailing art values. You know you can even get shown by doing that. But to challenge the prevailing art values, to say: listen there is a whole other set of symbols that we are interested in, that we have to offer, that is a whole other thing. Because that challenges the whole idea of what is and what is not important-who is and who is not important. I would like to say something about 'artist of The Dinner Party.' For a while, I think I was a little mixed up about the dinner party and me. Was I The Dinner Party? I have been an artist for 20 years, and The Dinner Party has occupied about a quarter of my time as a professional artist. A lot of the issues I have dealt with in The Dinner Party are issues that I have dealt with before-they have come out of the body of my work. NLF: It seems to me that if there has been a body of work that has been myth-making by male artists, we could be open to the challenge that what you are about is making myths that are primarily relevant only to women. My question is, what do you want men to take away from The Dinner Party? JC: I wish I had the statement that Calvin Can- HOUSTON BREAKTHROUGH 19 FEBRUARY 1980