Why is there no childbirth in Western art? Feminist legend Judy Chicago on taboos, fake news, and needlework
The artist and veteran activist revisits one of her most ambitious endeavors, the Birth Project
‘Humankind is represented by mankind … Fake news!’, said Judy Chicago, laughing, when she met Art Basel’s video team at the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami. Most of the artist’s forty-year-long career has been spent debunking that myth. Her best-known work, The Dinner Party (1974-1979), celebrates the role of women throughout history. The monumental installation has drawn over one million visitors since its first display and is now permanently housed at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City.
The Dinner Party has sometimes overshadowed the diversity of Chicago’s practice. Yet she has tackled minimalism, land art, history painting, and embroidery, addressing topics as diverse as male domination, depression, and the Holocaust. For the Birth Project (1980-85), Chicago turned her eye to what she saw as a major blind spot in art history: the representation of childbirth. Working with 150 volunteer needleworkers spread around the United States, she produced 85 needlepoint and textile works picturing women pregnant or in labor, caught between joy and excruciating pain. In this exclusive interview, Chicago revisits a body of work that, three decades later, has lost nothing of its urgency.