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My thoughts on Judy Chicago...

“Visual arts is our picture of the world.� - Judy Chicago

Before, I saw this film I had no idea of who Judy Chicago was, and I was really struck by how tough and honest she was. She really pushed her studio students outside of their comfort level as much as she could, and I really do think that they grew a lot because of that. She was so forceful at times and really harsh with her students, so much so, that I really kind of grew to resent her - I was so glad that I wasn’t in class with her.

I did, however, find some of her statements to be enlightening and I did learn more about some new aspects of feminist art and feminist pedagogy from her.

Her idea that women “do and be,� was a great way to state how women are often objects and objectified in art, so I thought that she was dead on with that phrase. Her point that women were brought into male schools and then were expected to fit-in in the institutions that were created for men, by men, resonated with me. I think that our current education system is slowly evolving and changing for the better, but I know from personal experience, that often times many girls are left out of the math and sciences, and as they grow older, these women are “left behind.� Chicago’s reference of a sexist education hierarchy in terms of art was a new perspective, and one that I definitely needed to hear.

So, Chicago didn’t fill me with feelings of endearment for her, but I was glad to hear some of the more positive comments from her students. One woman said that Chicago made her students feel as if they had something worthwhile to say – that is great that Chicago is able to channel their passion effectively. I felt as if her style of teaching was to break them down and rebuild them, but that she really tried for them to discover what elements they wanted to bring forth and use in their creative processes. One of her students mentioned that Chicago uses a holistic approach to teach her students more about artistic technique and such, and she said that it was a feministic approach. One thing that was kind of funny, during the entire film, the narrator/interviewer was trying to find out what was feministic about this studio art class, and at the end? Still no solid answer! The students themselves couldn’t and didn’t really talk much about feministic pedagogy and I didn’t really mind either way…I just thought it was interesting that the idea of a feministic approach to teaching art wasn’t explored more – but maybe that’s just it…why does it need a concrete boxy type definition?

I heard two good (I thought) definitions of feminist art: one being that feminist art peels away layers of stereotypes while affirming women --and the other-- feminist art is being able to let oneself go and not be embarrassed about what the results are.

One challenge I have of Chicago is that she seems kind of full of herself. I know that she has accomplished quite a bit and was on the cover of Time when she only 25, but her quote, “When I got famous, I knew that I had become myself,� made me think that she needed approval from Time to validate her work…what does that say about any internalized oppression she may have? Her students talked about being comfortable in being successful among their peers (read: women) and content at being behind the scenes. But, Chicago said that she had hit it when she was equal to the men…I don’t know if she should really be striving to further play and cash into a sexist system...it kind of makes her seem like a “sell-out� or no longer a grassroots revolutionary feminist. I think that she absolutely deserves her fame, and who am I to judge her? I’m just writing out some of my thoughts here…I could go on forever, but I won’t.
-B