I first heard of Judy Chicago at University when I did a course on feminism. The Dinner Party, her conceptual art piece was done in the 70’s. She was the first person to teach a college feminist art course and was definitely up there with the so-called second wave feminists such as Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem.
The Harwood Museum of Art in Taos currently has an exhibition of more than a dozen of the works from Chicago’s Birth Project. This project, five years in the making (1980-85), was a collaboration between Chicago, the designer, and 150 women to produce nearly 100 works using thread and fabric.
The works are beautiful and utterly female. Chicago documents both the history of birthing practice in the USA and the process of making the art, together with the thoughts and impact the project had on the women with whom she collaborated.
Chicago chose not to have children herself. Nonetheless she seems to have immersed herself in birth and other women’s experience of it. She was definitely ahead of her times in honouring the place that fabric, thread and creativity have in the history of womankind and giving it a place in the world of art.