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Not Patriarchal Art History, But Art ‘Herstory’: Judy Chicago on Why She Devoted Her New Show to 80 Women Artists Who Inspired Her



Judy Chicago is famous for The Dinner Party (1974–79), a work of art celebrating the overlooked historic achievements of women. So, it’s fitting that the great feminist artist’s first New York survey, “Judy Chicago: Herstory,” opening at the New Museum in October, will pay homage to women throughout history.

In an exhibition-within-the-exhibition title “City of Ladies,” features work by more than 80 women artists, writers, and cultural figures. Some are art history’s most famous women, such as Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Artemisia Gentileschi, as well as the likes of Paula Modersohn-Becker, Elizabeth Catlett, and Käthe Kollwitz. There are also women from other fields, including Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Martha Graham, and Emma Goldman.

The works will be displayed alongside several of Chicago’s major pieces, with monumental banners from her series “The Female Divine” (2022), created for a Paris fashion show with Dior, hanging overhead. It’s an unusual curatorial choice, but one that makes perfect sense when viewed through the lens of Chicago’s oeuvre.

For decades, she has made an art of collaboration, enlisting women with unique artistic skills to help realize her visions for ambitious projects like The Dinner Party and “The Birth Project” (1980–85). And if one half of Chicago’s practice is her physical work, the other is her deeply researched archival studies, uncovering the histories of women and their mastery of art forms wrongfully relegated to the realm of craft.

<img aria-describedby=”caption-attachment-2298624″ loading=”lazy” class=”size-large wp-image-2298624″ src=”×1024.jpg” alt=”Judy Chicago, What if Women Ruled the World? from “The Female Divine” (2020). ©Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS). Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation.” width=”736″ height=”1024″ srcset=”×1024.jpg 736w,×300.jpg 216w,×1536.jpg 1105w,×2048.jpg 1473w,×50.jpg 36w,×1920.jpg 1381w, 1841w” sizes=”(max-width: 736px) 100vw, 736px”>

Judy Chicago, What if Women Ruled the World? from “The Female Divine” (2020). ©Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS). Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation.

“If there is Judy, there is also women’s history. If there is Judy, there are also other women,” New Museum artistic director Massimiliano Gioni, who curated the show with Gary Carrion-Murayari, Margot Norton, and Madeline Weisburg, told Artnet News. “And so that’s how we came to this.”

One of the place settings in The Dinner Party is dedicated to Christine de Pisan, the author of the 15th-century protofeminist book Le Livre de la Cite des Dames (or The Book of the City of Ladies), which lends its name to the section in Chicago’s upcoming show.

“Christine [de Pisan] was the first woman in Europe to ever support herself by writing. She was widowed at 25 with three children, and she took up her pen to write. And she wrote that book in response to a very popular and very misogynist book called Roman de la Rose,” Chicago told Artnet News.

“In the book, Christine describes sitting at her desk and thinking, ‘maybe women really are inferior,’ whereupon three figures appear before her: Reason, Justice, and Virtue,” Chicago continued. “And they say, ‘Don’t be foolish, Christine. What you have to do is… counter this idea by building creating a City of Ladies’—which she did.”

<img aria-describedby=”caption-attachment-2298608″ loading=”lazy” class=”size-large wp-image-2298608″ src=”×1024.jpeg” alt=”Gluck (Hannah Gluckstein), Portrait of Miss E.M. Craig (1920). ©Estate of Gluck (Hannah Gluckstein). Courtesy Piano Nobile, London” width=”705″ height=”1024″ srcset=”×1024.jpeg 705w,×300.jpeg 206w,×1536.jpeg 1057w,×2048.jpeg 1409w,×50.jpeg 34w,×1920.jpeg 1321w, 1762w” sizes=”(max-width: 705px) 100vw, 705px”>

Gluck (Hannah Gluckstein), Portrait of Miss E.M. Craig (1920). ©Estate of Gluck (Hannah Gluckstein). Courtesy Piano Nobile, London

When the artist, who is 83, first learned about the book during her work on The Dinner Party, it wasn’t even translated into English. But Chicago sees City of Ladies as evidence that the roots of feminism go back centuries earlier than is generally acknowledged, and that there is an unknown cultural history written by women.

“One of the things I discovered in the ’70s,” Chicago said, “was this incredible hunger among women for images that affirmed them.”

At the New Museum, Chicago and Gioni are building their own “City of Ladies” on the fourth floor as a way of illuminating centuries of women’s creativity and showing how Chicago’s own work stems from this unacknowledged history.

“I hope it will transform the way people see my life, [and] that they will begin to understand my work in a different history than patriarchal art history,” Chicago said. “There is an alternative canon that already exists, [and] doesn’t have to be created. It’s just been excluded.”

Mary Louise McLaughlin, “Ali Baba” Vase (1880). Collection of the Cincinnati Art Museum. Gift of the Estate of Jane Gates Todd 2018.

Mary Louise McLaughlin, “Ali Baba” Vase (1880). Collection of the Cincinnati Art Museum. Gift of the Estate of Jane Gates Todd 2018.

“Massimilliano is making visible the multiple historic contexts out of which my six-decade career grows,” she added, noting that people have had difficulty understanding her work because they are ignorant about topics like women’s needlework and ceramics. “I did not actually understand that this was the reason for the complete lack of comprehension of my work for so long.”

The artist and the curator first met while working on “The Great Mother,” an exhibition on depictions of motherhood in 20th- and 21st-century that Gioni curated for Expo Milan in 2015. Chicago had started “The Birth Project,” featured prominently in the show, to correct what she was as the absence of maternal imagery in historical artworks.

“What Massimiliano’s show taught me is that erasure is not just the erasure of individual women’s achievements. Erasure also applies to subject matter that the patriarchal art world considers unimportant, like birth and motherhood—because it turns out there is a huge body of art on those subjects dating back to the beginning of the 20th century,” Chicago said. “Dada, Futurism—I was completely blown away.”

<img aria-describedby=”caption-attachment-2298631″ loading=”lazy” class=”size-large wp-image-2298631″ src=”×389.jpg” alt=”Judy Chicago, Birth Trinity: Needlepoint 1 from “The Birth Project” (1983). Needlepoint by Susan Bloomenstein, Elizabeth Colten, Karen Fogel, Helene Hirmes, Bernice Levitt, Linda Rothenberg, and Miriam Vogelman. ©Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. The Gusford Collection. Photo by Donald Woodman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.” width=”1024″ height=”389″ srcset=”×389.jpg 1024w,×114.jpg 300w,×583.jpg 1536w,×778.jpg 2048w,×19.jpg 50w,×729.jpg 1920w” sizes=”(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px”>

Judy Chicago, Birth Trinity: Needlepoint 1 from “The Birth Project” (1983). Needlepoint by Susan Bloomenstein, Elizabeth Colten, Karen Fogel, Helene Hirmes, Bernice Levitt, Linda Rothenberg, and Miriam Vogelman. ©Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. The Gusford Collection. Photo by Donald Woodman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Some of the women in the “City of Ladies” have inspired Chicago for years. Others, even the artist—obviously an enthusiastic student of women’s history for decades—had not known before Gioni began putting together the show.

“It’s gonna be a huge learning experience for most viewers,” Chicago said.

But even if she didn’t encounter Hilma af Klint’s pioneering Spiritualist abstractions until the artist’s blockbuster show at New York’s Guggenheim Museum in 2018, Chicago sees a through line between her work and that of the late Swedish artist. The City of Ladies, Chicago believes, will demonstrate that women have always been working in their own art historical traditions, separate and distinct from that of men.

<img aria-describedby=”caption-attachment-2298611″ loading=”lazy” class=”size-large wp-image-2298611″ src=”×1024.jpeg” alt=”Hilma af Klint, Group IX/UW, The dove, no.2 (1915). ©The Hilma af Klint Foundation.” width=”772″ height=”1024″ srcset=”×1024.jpeg 772w,×300.jpeg 226w,×1536.jpeg 1158w,×2048.jpeg 1544w,×50.jpeg 38w,×1920.jpeg 1447w, 1930w” sizes=”(max-width: 772px) 100vw, 772px”>

Hilma af Klint, Group IX/UW, The dove, no.2 (1915). ©The Hilma af Klint Foundation.

“Mainstream institutions have been trying to figure out how to add women and artists of color around the perimeter without challenging the patriarchal paradigm,” Chicago said. “But I’ve been working entirely in a different paradigm.”

The showcase won’t just include art. There will be a copy, for instance, of 19th-century French animal painter Rosa Bonheur’s official application to be granted permission to wear men’s clothing in public.

There will also be a focus on what Chicago has termed central core imagery, in which an artwork is built from the center radiating out, rather than from the edges of the canvas moving in.

“In the ’70s, I studied the work of many women artists and discovered that, like me, there were many women who constructed their images from the center,” Chicago said. “It reinforced my own impulses at a time when the craze was to create compositions from the edge, which I always felt alienated from.”

<img aria-describedby=”caption-attachment-2298617″ loading=”lazy” class=”size-large wp-image-2298617″ src=”×819.jpg” alt=”Judy Chicago, Virginia Woolf from “The Reincarnation Triptych” (1973). ©Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Collection of Kirsten Grimstad and Diana Gould.” width=”1024″ height=”819″ srcset=”×819.jpg 1024w,×240.jpg 300w,×1229.jpg 1536w,×1638.jpg 2048w,×40.jpg 50w,×1536.jpg 1920w” sizes=”(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px”>

Judy Chicago, Virginia Woolf from “The Reincarnation Triptych” (1973). ©Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Collection of Kirsten Grimstad and Diana Gould.

Her writings on the subject were ridiculed at the time, Chicago added, but “could have opened up a whole stream of understanding of work by women based in a different body impulse because we exist around the central core.”

Bringing together the loans for the “City of Ladies” was a bit outside the wheelhouse for the New Museum, which is dedicated to contemporary art. “It is probably the only time we will have Hildegard of Bingen and Artemisia Gentileschi,” Gioni said.

But the exhibition is an important step toward improving an understanding of women in art history—and neither the Museum of Modern Art nor the Metropolitan Museum are taking that on.

“Why is it still the alternative museum that has to do it? it’s amazing that we’re doing it, but we’re still the alternative museum,” he said. Nevertheless, somebody has to be doing this important work: “It’s about rewriting history.”

Judy Chicago: Herstory” will be on view at the New Museum, 235 Bowery, New York, New York, October 12, 2023–January 14, 2024. 



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Home + Away artwork opens in Vancouver’s Hastings Park



A new art installation now towers over Vancouver’s Hastings Park fields in celebration of the city’s history of spectators and sports.

Home + Away is a sculpture by Seattle artists Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo of Lead Pencil Studio, which opened Monday in the southeast end of the historic park.

It’s a 17-metre-tall structure that resembles a narrow set of bleachers — similar to the stands of the Empire Stadium, which stood on the site of the park from 1954 to 1993 and hosted The Beatles, among many others. It recalls a covered ski jump that stood there in the 1950s and the nearby wooden rollercoaster at the PNE.

The city says the public is invited to walk the stairs and sit on the benches.

“In addition to being visually striking, this artwork is intended to be ascended, sat on and experienced. It offers exciting experiences of height and views and provides 16 rows of seating for up to 49 people, making for a unique spectator experience when watching events at Empire Fields,” the city said in a release Monday.

The idea for the park to include public art was outlined in the Hastings Park “Master Plan,” first adopted by the city in 2010. The city says Han and Mihalyo first presented their design in 2015.

“It’s wonderful to see this piece realized within the context of such a well-used public space,” said Han.

Home + Away was inspired directly by the site history of spectatorship, and we hope it will connect Hastings Park users to that history and the majestic views of the environment for many decades to come,” added Mihalyo.

The artwork features a large light-up sign, in the style of a sports scoreboard, that reads “HOME” and “AWAY.”



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Bill Viola, Video Artist Who Established the Medium as an Integral Part of Contemporary Art, Dies at 73



Bill Viola, whose decades-long engagement with video proved vital in establishing the medium as an integral part of contemporary art, died on July 12 at his home in Long Beach, California. He was at 73 years old. The cause was complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. The news of his passing was confirmed by James Cohan Gallery.

Viola’s works are centered around the idea of human consciousness and such fundamental experiences as birth, death, and spirituality. He delved into mystical traditions from Zen Buddhism to Islamic Sufism, as well as Western devotional art from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in his videos, which often juxtaposed themes of life and death, light and dark, noise and silence. These explorations were achieved by submerging viewers in both image and sound with cutting-edge technologies for their time.

“I first used the camera and lens as a surrogate eye, to bring things closer, or to magnify them, to experiment with perception, to extend vision and make lengthy observations of simple objects,” Viola said in a 2015 interview. “Once you do that, their essence becomes visible. So I suppose I was always interested in the inner life of the world around me.”

Beginning in the 1970s, Viola created videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, flat panel video pieces, and works for television broadcast—all of which expanded the scope of the medium and established Viola as one of its most notable practitioner.

Video still of a man diving into water that has been reversed. The image is mostly black and teal.

In 2003 the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; Tate, London; and the Centre Pompidou in Paris jointly acquired Bill Viola’s 2001 three-channel video installation Five Angels for the Millennium.

Photo Kira Perov/©Bill Viola Studio

Bill Viola was born in 1951. He grew up in Queens and Westbury, New York, and attended P.S. 20 in Flushing, before receiving his BFA in experimental studios from Syracuse University in 1973. There, he studied with visual art with the likes of Jack Nelson and electronic music with Franklin Morris.

Following his graduation, between 1973 to 1980, Viola studied and performed with composer David Tudor in the music group Rainforest, which later became known as Composers Inside Electronics. He also worked as technical director at the pioneering video studio Art/tapes/22 in Florence, Italy from 1974 to 1976. During that time he encountered the work of other seminal video artists like Nam June Paik, Bruce Nauman, and Vito Acconci.

Viola was subsequently an artist-in-residence at New York’s WNET Thirteen Television Laboratory between 1976 to 1983, wherein he created a series of works that premiered on television. He traveled to the Solomon Islands, Java, and Indonesia to record traditional performing arts between 1976 and 1977. Later that year, Viola was invited to show work at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, by cultural arts director Kira Perov, with whom he married and began a lifelong collaboration.

He was appointed an instructor in advanced video at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California in 1983. He was the Getty Research Institute scholar-in-residence in Los Angeles in 1998 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000.

In 1985, Viola received with a Guggenheim Fellowship for fine arts, and later that decade, in 1989, he was awarded the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship. His work was also featured in some of the world’s most notable exhibitions, including Documenta VI in 1977, Documenta XI in 1992, the 1987 and 1993 editions of the Whitney Biennial, and the 2001 Venice Biennale.

In 1995, he represented the United States at the 46th edition of the Venice Biennale. For the pavilion, Viola produced the series of works “Buried Secrets,” including one of his most known works The Greeting, which offers a contemporary interpretation of Pontormo’s oil painting The Visitation (ca.1528–30). The Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin and New York’s Guggenheim Museum commissioned the digital fresco cycle in high-definition video, titled Going Forth By Day, in 2002.

Viola’s work was the subject of a major 25-year survey at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1997, which subsequently toured internationally. His work has been the subject of major museum retrospectives in the years since, including at the Grand Palais in Paris (in 2014), the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence (2017), the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain (2017), and the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia (2019), as well as an exhibition pairing his work with that of Michelangelo at the Royal Academy of Art in London in 2019.

Viola is survived by his wife Kira Perov, who has been the executive director of his studio since 1978, and their two children.

“One thing that’s very exciting about video that has turned me on since I first saw this glowing image way back in 1970 is that it can be so much,” Viola said in a 1995 with Charlie Rose on the occasion of this US Pavilion at the Biennale. “Furthermore, what’s really exciting is I don’t think it’s been since really the Renaissance where artists have been able to use a medium that one could say is the dominant communication form in society.”


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Couple’s winning art projects adorn overpass



Annabelle Harvey and Corbin Elliot are partners: in life, love, and art. Thanks to their creative pursuits, now they are also joined in the recognition of their work along the Lakeshore overpass.

The City of North Bay, in collaboration with the Public Art Advisory Committee (PAAC), recently held an event to acknowledge the successful applicants for the Lakeshore Drive overpass banner project. This initiative features 14 artworks created by local artists, highlighting the ongoing commitment to bringing public art to the community and celebrating local talent. The banners were installed early last week.

On behalf of PAAC, Katie Bevan noted that 71 submissions were received for the banner art project. “Selecting just 14 artworks from such outstanding submissions was no small feat. It truly highlights the incredible creativity within our community — and it’s only growing.”

Bevan acknowledged all who submitted their work and congratulated the 14 winners:

  • Caitlin Daniel
  • Corbin Elliot
  • Adam Fielder
  • Ian Gauthier
  • Ruby Grant
  • Annabelle Harvey
  • Penny Heather
  • Robert Johannsen
  • Robyn Jones
  • Gerry McComb
  • Victoria Primeau
  • Tessa Shank
  • Rana Thomas
  • Claudia Torres

“This is the first time I’ve participated in something city-wide, and I’ve been really interested in getting more involved in the art community,” said Harvey, a teacher by vocation when not helping to beautify North Bay. “I’ve worked a lot with the WKP Kennedy Gallery and I’ve been putting in submissions for some of their group shows. So, this is a cool opportunity to try something new. This is the first time I have done digital work. Usually, I like painting and collage. So I was interested just to try something new.”

In September 2023, public art gained more prominence in North Bay as 12 pieces by eight local artists selected by the Public Art Advisory Committee were placed on aluminum panels mounted onto the public buildings in both Champlain and Sunset parks.

Harvey’s partner Elliot is an emerging artist and a Fine Arts graduate from Nipissing University who says his passion for bringing his vision to life has only grown, thanks, in part, to these public art initiatives.

“There is so much opportunity to have a lot of different public art in different spaces,” he says. “So, when I saw that there was a variety of different artists and voices being accepted, of course, I wanted to have my vision out there in the city, to make my mark and be a part of that kind of trajectory of building the art scene within the city.”

The couple share a studio space, often working on separate projects at the same time while collaborating with encouragement and ideas.

“We are working on different mediums, a lot of the time,” Elliot said. “We have our own corners set up in the studio and I’ll usually be on my easel and Annabelle will be doing something…”

Harvey picked up his thought, “I’m usually at my desk doing pottery, jewellery, collage — I do a lot of different things.”

Couple Annabelle Harvey and Corbin Elliot each earned a spot among the 14 winning banner art projects. Stu Campaigne/BayToday

For Harvey, working so closely together is her “favourite part, especially watching his creative process.”

Elliot added, “I think I’m more non-verbal as I’m creating. I often hear you saying, ‘Oh, I think I like this.'”

Both have active Instagram pages featuring their artwork, Harvey’s can be found here, and Elliot’s here.

Elliot has a show at the WKP Kennedy Gallery, entitled “Upon a Star,” opening Sept. 13. “I’ll have my own solo exhibition. I typically work in painting. I have a big body of work with paintings,” he said.

The City of North Bay and PAAC encourage everyone to take a moment to appreciate these works of art when passing by the overpass.

Harvey and Elliot are thrilled about the banner art project.

“It’s like seeing your vision come to life. We’ve had lots of friends, even before we saw them today say excitedly, ‘I saw your work on the overpass,’ it’s just a proud moment to have so many eyes on our work.”



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