In Conversation: Judy Chicago and Jayna Zweiman

In Conversation: Judy Chicago and Jayna Zweiman


STEPHANIE CRISTELLO:
Hello everyone. Thank you so much for
being here tonight. My name is Stephanie Cristello. I’m the director of
programming for Expo Chicago, as well as the editor
in chief of The Scene, Chicago’s international journal
for contemporary and modern art. It is our pleasure to be hosting
a dialogues panel here tonight, which is a yearlong
program of panels symposia and provocative artistic
discourse with leading artists curators and art professionals
on the current issues that engage them. I wanted to take a
moment to acknowledge the partnership between
Expo Chicago and the Smart Museum of Art, which has
allowed us to present this program this evening. The talk is held in conjunction
with the Smart Museum’s current projects. Welcome Blanket, created
by Jayna Zweiman, and conversations with
the collection Building Environments, which features
the work of Judy Chicago, who is represented by
Jessica Silverman Gallery in San Francisco, who
were thrilled to have joined us today. I wanted to also
think the Lab School for generously supporting
and hosting tonight’s program for this panel. Please join me in extending a
very warm welcome to Allison Gass, the Dana Fiedler director
of the Smart Museum Of Art, and our panelists. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] ALISON GASS: Thank you all so
much for being here tonight. This is incredibly,
incredibly exciting for me to be here having this
conversation with two really extraordinary women
on topics that have been really near and dear
to my heart for my whole life. Really, my whole career. But I just want to start. It’s sort of hard to
introduce Judy Chicago. I would say that everyone
knows Judy Chicago. There have been words
that have been coming up on my Facebook feed. A legend, my hero. Judy and I did a talk
together and I have never seen an audience respond to an
artist the way people respond to Judy. Judy has been a seminal
figure in the art world since the beginning
of her career. She is perhaps best
known as really, the creator of the idea
of feminist art practice, with a seminal work
called “The Dinner Party,” which I’m sure many of you know,
which is now permanently housed in the Sackler Center For
Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum. Judy’s work is in collections
and museums across the world. She has been featured in
articles, books, canonizing books of every kind. She has authored. She has taught. She is extraordinary. I’m really honored to
have you here tonight. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] Now, I also want to introduce
for a new name in the art world, the incredible
Jayna Zweiman. Jane has a B.A. from
Brown University, and a masters of architecture
from the Harvard GSD. She has done incredible
things throughout her career. She has worked on
the Clinton campaign. She has been an architect. She has become an
extraordinary community activist, and an artist. She is probably
best known to you, and to the rest of the
world, as the co-creator of the pussy hat, which
we’ll talk about later. And I was so thrilled when
I came to the Smart Museum this summer to begin my job
as the Dana Fiedler director to bring with me Jayna’s newest
project, Welcome Blanket. So we’ll talk about both
of those things tonight. I will just say that my very,
very first museum job ever was writing catalog entries
for the dinner party at the Brooklyn
Museum of Art, when I was still in graduate school. I went to graduate school to
study feminist art theory, and it all began with Judy. I just met a young woman
who graduated from college as an art history major
and said she, too, was just in awe of being here,
because she has been studying and studying Judy. Just to embarrass Judy,
I’ll keep going with that. But recently, I
was asked to write a major essay for a
forthcoming book, a monograph, for Judy’s work that is being
published by the National Museum of Women In The Arts. And it’s a really
kind of a moment to take stock of the
arc of this career. And the essay that I’ve
really been asked to write is the introductory essay
that positions Judy’s career, and really considers her legacy. Much of my curatorial
practice has been about thinking of
this legacy of feminist art practice that was born of a
moment in the 60s and 70s. But what has it
meant for generations of artists moving forward? And what has Judy’s
career continued to do during that time? And that’s something
that’s really important to talk about tonight. The reason I say
this is because Jayna came to me, in large part,
through the Judy Chicago installation at the Brooklyn
Museum, where she went after pussy hat to think
about her own position within this legacy of feminist
art practice and activist practice. And said, I had this project. And someone said oh, you
should talk to Allie Gass. And we actually knew each other,
having gone to high school together, though not having
talked for a long time. So this really is a talk
borne of this story. This arc of Judy’s
career, my own career, Jayna’s career, that
really made sense. So when Expo asked us to think
about what kind of a talk the Smart Museum
might want to do, this was sort of my
dream panel idea. So I just thank both
of you for being here. What I want to do tonight
is do an arc that kind of goes back and forth between
looking at Judy Chicago’s artistic practice, thinking
about Jayna Zweiman’s practice, sort of within that legacy. And thinking about what
are the lynchpin ideas that getting these two
incredible women together helps us to think about? I want to think, of course,
about feminist art practice, activist art practice. I want to think
about what it means to make a practice and artistic
materials of any kind, that harnesses a political
moment, a sensibility, that forges a power for change. I want to think
about the moments when people react negatively
to those things as well. And I think we’re just going
to have a conversation. And we’re going
to dive in I want to start here,
Judy, which is some of your early work
from the ’60s. And when you and
I talked before, can you tell me a little
bit about the experience you had in graduate school
being a woman artist in LA in these moments, and the
work that came out of it? Talk to us a little bit
about what we’re seeing here. JUDY CHICAGO: Well
on the top left hand corner is an
image called, well it’s actually a flight hood. It’s painted on
the hood of a car. And it’s an
adaptation of an image I did in graduate school,
which my male professors hated. They hated my color. They hated my imagery. It was like looms
and [? breast. ?] [WRETCHING SOUND] ALISON GASS: Yes. And this was a moment when the
male artists were doing what? They were a minimalist practice. JUDY CHICAGO: Well, there
was a kind of counterpart to New York minimalism
in LA, which was a very macho scene, very
inhospitable to women artists. I was telling a young woman
who was interviewing me on the phone that in the
’60s, the biggest compliment you could get was that
you painted like a man. And she was like,
you’re kidding me? I’m like no, I’m
not kidding you. And in fact there
were no solo shows. There were only one man shows. ALISON GASS: One man shows. JUDY CHICAGO: You had to have
like a gender reassignment. ALISON GASS: To
have a solo show. JUDY CHICAGO: Right,
to have a solo. And so I was a very
ambitious young artist. And at the time, there was no– LA was very different
than it is now. It was very wide open. There was very little art
scene, it was just being built. And consequently,
artists of my generation never imagined making
money from art. ALISON GASS: Interesting,
because we think of LA now as this hotbed. JUDY CHICAGO:
Completely different. I mean, now LA is part of
the international art scene. But it wasn’t then. It was really kind
of on the edge. The arts scene was
just being built, and the goal at that time
was being taken seriously as an artist, which
is what I wanted. ALISON GASS: And you
were determined to do it. JUDY CHICAGO: I was
determined, yes. And so what I did for the
first decade of my career was kind of back away
from my early imagery, and become much more minimal. The thing it’s amazing is that
I also went to autobody school. ALISON GASS: So this is what– I have to talk about this. Because we did this. We talked about
this once before. The fact– because I think of
like the car culture of the LA art scene. Chamberlain, whatever. This is about masculinity,
this is about toughness. So tell me about being a woman
artist using these colors. JUDY CHICAGO: Well I used to
hang out with John Chamberlain. And he used to always
say, [IMITATING A MAN] what I should do
is go to autobody about your school is
really learn how to paint, because those guys really. Well, he didn’t. I did. Me and 250 guys. ALISON GASS: I love this. I love this. JUDY CHICAGO: The thing
about it though it’s important in terms of
understanding our practice, is that 15 years,
20 years later, when the dinner
party was premiered, and people talked about my
having brought women’s crafts into high art, well
my whole practice was built on learning
techniques that were appropriate for
my aesthetic needs. Starting with going
to autobody school. ALISON GASS: Right, so while
we think of these materials as totally gendered, we
think of needle point as a feminine material. We think of autobody
school as masculine. For you, this was just a means
to constructing a vision. JUDY CHICAGO: Because
techniques have no gender. ALISON GASS: Of course not. And color, in fact,
has no gender either. JUDY CHICAGO: Except
that the thing is really interesting
about, even when I was trying to be
at my most minimal, I clearly didn’t succeed. Because in Pacific Standard
Time, in 2011 and 2012, there was this big initiative
in Southern California funded by the Getty, that was
called Pacific Standard Time. ALISON GASS: And
didn’t you have work in eight of the different
shows in Pacific Standard? Well Well, it’s funny. It’s what goes
around, comes around. But anyway, that thing,
I’ll explain that. The thing is that it
was like across all of art institutions from
San Diego to Santa Barbara, in Southern California,
looking at celebrating Southern California art from the
’60s to the ’80s, which was exactly when I was in LA. And the big change that
happened it was now it was inconceivable not to
have women in the show. But since I was one of the
few women in that scene, I was in like so many shows. ALISON GASS: Oh, that
makes so much sense. Right. JUDY CHICAGO: So– but that
show that the Getty did, the kind of signature
Pacific Standard Time show, that painting
in the corner, which is 8 feet by 8 feet. ALISON GASS: It’s an
incredible painting. JUDY CHICAGO: Was in the show. And one of my male
colleagues from the ’60s apparently complained
to the curator that it didn’t belong there. It was too sensual, too erotic. ALISON GASS:
Complained in had 2011? JUDY CHICAGO: And
had too much color. Yes, in 2011. Yes. ALISON GASS: And
that’s why we’re going to talk today about why
some of these issues that we think aren’t a problem anymore,
because we see women artists and shows all the time. This is still not done. This is still a story that we
have to tell, and fight for. I mean, that’s pretty clear
from everybody’s practice. Talk quickly about
this wonderful work in the middle,
which I really love. – Oh, Rainbow Picket? ALISON GASS: Yeah, I love it. JUDY CHICAGO: Rainbow
Picket was a piece that I did and couldn’t
get any traction for, even though it was in the
most important minimal show. But I was such a young
and naive artist. And when you’re from
a disaffected group, one of the problems is is that
there’s a lot of information you don’t get. Like, when you’re in
a big New York show, you’re supposed to
get on an airplane, and go to the opening. ALISON GASS: Right. JUDY CHICAGO: And
so I didn’t go, and I didn’t know what
to do with that piece. It was– so I destroyed it. And it was rebuilt,
actually, because of a woman who was
here in Chicago now, Anne Goldstein, who was
the curator at LA MOCA now. She’s the chief
curator and deputy director of the Art Institute. And it was because of her that
Rainbow Pickett was rebuilt. ALISON GASS: That’s incredible. JUDY CHICAGO: And actually
now a lot of my early pieces are going to be
rebuilt. That’s great. And I’m really thrilled. I never thought. It’s like what goes
around, comes around. ALISON GASS: I mean,
this work that you felt like it was worth destroying. That’s pretty incredible. All right, I’m
going to keep us– JUDY CHICAGO: You never,
the moral of this story is you never know
what’s going to happen if you live long enough. [LAUGHTER] ALISON GASS: But it’s
good, happy story. All right, let’s talk about
The Dinner Party, which premiered in fact in Chicago. Oh. You staged it– JUDY CHICAGO: San Francisco. It premiered in San Francisco. ALISON GASS: Oh, I knew that. I knew that. And then– because we were
just talking about it was staged in Printer’s Row, though,
where these ladies saw it. All right, let’s talk
about The Dinner Party, because this is the
work that kind of got the attention of the
art world at this moment. And I think, when many
people think of you, although your career has
been long and varied, this is the thing
that comes to mind. I think, at first,
for a lot of people who don’t know your work well. All right. Can you tell us a
little bit about it? JUDY CHICAGO: Well I was
just telling some people here in Chicago about the
show that just opened. The Dinner Party
traveled around the world through a completely
alternative grassroots movement. It was the piece that
everybody wanted to see, and nobody wanted to show. And that’s how it ended up on
Printers Row, which ended up gentrifying Printer’s Row. Because it was a
grassroots group here called the Roslyn
Group For Arts And Letters, who organized. And what happened
with The Dinner Party, it was pretty unprecedented
in the art world, is people got together and
organized, raise money, created staff. That’s what they did
on Printer’s Row. And there was a developer
who gave the space, and then developed the building. ALISON GASS: After you
got some attention for it. JUDY CHICAGO: But the
thing is, The Dinner Party was seen by a million people as
it traveled around the world. And it’s been since it’s
been personally housed at the Sackler Center
the Brooklyn Museum, has been seen by another
million and a half. ALISON GASS: It’s incredible. JUDY CHICAGO: But I was
just telling these people that we were just in New
York, because there’s this show that’s opened at the
Brooklyn Museum called Roots Of The Dinner Party,
History In The Making, which is the first look at my
creative practices and process. ALISON GASS: Which I would
like was about a little bit. JUDY CHICAGO: But on the way,
when my husband [? Doland ?] and I were in the car on
the way to the opening. I was texting with some
of The Dinner Party people who came in for the opening. One of them called
the rest of them The Dinner Party leftovers. But anyway, they all have
had very stellar careers. So I’m texting with the
dinner party leftovers, and saying 37 years
ago, the New York art world tried to kill me,
and The Dinner Party. I mean, the reviews
of The Dinner Party. Anybody who knows
anything about my career knows that the reviews
and the hostility of the art world towards The
Dinner Party was vitriolic. ALISON GASS: It was vitriolic. JUDY CHICAGO: Totally vitriolic. Right? ALISON GASS: Yeah. So does everybody here know
what The Dinner Party is, let’s talk about what it is. It was an intentional
mechanism to kind of rewrite human history by pointing
out significant women from across history. JUDY CHICAGO: Just the history
of Western civilization. ALISON GASS: Just the history
of Western civilization. JUDY CHICAGO: I mean,
I was ambitious, but let’s not get carried away. ALISON GASS: All
right, fair enough. OK. So talk a little bit about
how you conceived of it. How did that– JUDY CHICAGO: Well,
I slowly came back, which is what you’re
looking in, and the imagery of through the flower
and peeling back. I slowly came back
to my own imagery. The one thing about
Southern California, as tough as it was
for women artists, was that there was a spirit
of self-invention there that allowed me to imagine that
I could create a feminist art practice, and a new
form of education called feminist art education,
where women’s needs would be addressed. Which they’re not. Because university
studio art education is inherently biased
against women. What do I mean? Well, like one of my
students in the feminist star program in Fresno, which is
where I started, is a sculptor. And she was always
interested in sculpture, but she wouldn’t take
a sculpture class when she was in Fresno
because she didn’t want to make a white plaster cube. ALISON GASS: Yeah. JUDY CHICAGO: Which is. ALISON GASS: What you make. JUDY CHICAGO: What you make. Because that’s what men like. She wanted to work with
a needle and thread, and cast clothing
in bronze, and that was impossible at the time. And nobody supported her, which
is what I wanted to try and do in my educational program. But anyway, by the
end of the 1960s, I was sick to death
of trying to be a guy. ALISON GASS: Well done. JUDY CHICAGO: And also, when
I was in college at UCLA, I took a course called The
Intellectual History Of Europe. And the professor
promised to talk about women’s contributions
at the last class. And I waited all semester. He came in, he walked up
to the front of the class, and he said women’s
contributions, they made none. ALISON GASS: Are you serious? JUDY CHICAGO: Yes. That was the prevailing
attitude in the ’60s. Women had no history. There’d never been a
great woman artist. What women did didn’t count. Didn’t count. Or if they did it,
it was woman’s work, and it wasn’t high
art, and it didn’t have deep meaning like crushed
cars, and plaster cubes. JUDY CHICAGO: Right. I mean, there was no way
Jayne could initiate a project like the Welcome Blanket then. Unless it was– I mean it would have been
completely ghetto-ized. ALISON GASS: It would
have been a craft project. JUDY CHICAGO: It would never
be in a major in a museum. ALISON GASS: Exactly. That’s why we’re here. JUDY CHICAGO: So I was trying
to figure out what whether– because I was having so
many problems in the male dominated art scene. I started wondering
whether had ever been any women before me who had
encountered similar obstacles. And if so, what they had done. So at the end of the
’60s, before there were women’s studies
courses, I started kind of self-guided study
tour into history to look. And wherever I was traveling
around a lot talking about my work, and
wherever I went, I’d go to used bookstores,
and I found all this material that I got. And I bought these
books for $1 a book, because nobody was
interested in them. And I discovered this
treasure trove of material, and discovered that it was a
complete fiction that women didn’t have a history. I found women artists, I
found women’s biographies, I found books that had
been published actually. There’s a series of five books
in the [? root ?] show that was by a woman named
Mary Hayes, who was a contemporary of Mary
Wollstonecraft’s, a history of women. When The Dinner Party
administrator found it, we were researching for the
floor, for the Heritage Floor, the book had not
been checked out of the library for 75 years. ALISON GASS: I mean,
it hurts to hear this. It hurts to. JUDY CHICAGO: So
all this gasping, well that’s what I did. I gasped. And it got me really pissed off. So I was a young, energetic
ambitious young woman who had been raised by a
Marxist father with a mandate to try and make a
contribution to the world. And so I decided,
with my paintbrush, I was going to change all this. Me and my paintbrush. ALISON GASS: But you know what? You did. JUDY CHICAGO: So yeah. But actually, I
do have to tell– I just want to tell one
very brief story, which was I’m really moved by this. I’m going to get an honorary
doctorate from the School of Chicago Art Institute. Which I have other
honorary doctorates. But it really means a lot to me. [APPLAUSE] Because from the time I was five
years old, I was telling you, I used to get on the
53 bus every Saturday by myself, which is
unheard of now, right? And go to the Chicago
Art Institute. And every Saturday
from the time I was five to the time I was 17
I took art class lessons there. And my primary teacher
in junior school was a man named Manny Jacobson,
who’s I’m sure gone now, but he taught a lot of
artists who became famous. And when The Dinner Party
opened in Printer’s Row, Manny Jacobson came and
I gave him a private tour and he talked in a
hushed voice like this. And we walked around that piece. And he said to me, I
always knew you were going to do something important. ALISON GASS: Oh my goodness. So this is an incredibly
meaningful honorary doctorate. It’s incredible. It’s incredible. OK. I’m going to give– we’re going to keep talking
about The Dinner Party. JUDY CHICAGO: No,
that’s enough already. ALISON GASS: We’re going
to let you talk now, Jayna. Drink water. But I want you guys very much
to ask each other questions. So Judy, please help me
talk through this as well. OK. Jayna, let’s jump
from 1979, ’74 to ’79 is when that you were making
The Dinner Party, to 2017. So one thing that I
will just quickly say is that over the course of
my curatorial practice, one of the things that
has troubled me a great deal was the
resistance in women artists of my generation, or
younger generations, to using the word feminism. It was something that I really
have written about quite a bit, and it became kind
of a hard word. I was trying to figure out why
are women who so clearly embody everything we believe about
feminism resistant to it? You talked about the struggle
with naming the Sackler Center the Center for Feminist
Art, that people said no, it’s a dated term. Don’t use that. So I just want to use that
as kind of a framework. Talk to us about
how this happened. JAYNE ZWEIMAN: So– is this on? OK. So maybe a really
quick one, too, is in my art history class,
there was one page on feminism. And there was a mention. I had Jansson, you
know, the tome. And there’s a mention of
women and decorative arts. And like two sentences. ALISON GASS: And
this is at Brown. JAYNE ZWEIMAN: This is at
Brown in the late ’90s. And the art history professor
showed a slide of yours. He’s like, this
is the decoration, you should really
know about this. This is Judy Chicago. And when I saw it,
I saw that there was like a place for everyone. And we didn’t really
understand the slide. And it’s grainy, we
didn’t really go into it. But it was this way of thinking
about space that I think I’ve always carried with me. So thank you. Which is really important, and
also at Brown and the and late ’90s, early 2000s, I had a
really fantastic painting teacher who was a
woman, who would always show us women artists. Which made me really
understand sort of what the possibilities were. And actually led me to
architecture school, and then back here. ALISON GASS: So architecture
is A whole other realm where we can talk about women being– JAYNE ZWEIMAN: Sure. So the pussy hat project
came about for a bunch of different reasons. One was the election,
as you can imagine. And I had actually
come back to knitting. I started knitting to
understand lines, and surface, and how those constructed
together to make objects and form. ALISON GASS: For you was very
much an architectural endeavor. JAYNE ZWEIMAN: Exactly. And from a very sort of
masculine architecture program, I actually got a grant
to learn how to knit. ALISON GASS: At Harvard. JAYNE ZWEIMAN: At Harvard, to
Haystack Mountain School Of Crafts. ALISON GASS: Wow. JAYNE ZWEIMAN: Which is amazing. And so I don’t think the
competition was so stiff for that in that place, but
it definitely changed the way that I thought about sort of
the possibilities of making facades, and how to
think about spaces, and open up other artist
work that I got to see. So I put that on
hold for a while, and I had had a really
difficult accident back in 2013. And so, as part of recovery,
even a couple of years later, I wanted to learn
how to do something, where there was zero cleanup. And I could learn something new. So I roped someone in. ALISON GASS: Because as part
of your recovery process, the kind of general
practice of architecture wasn’t something you
were really doing, and you couldn’t paint
so well at that moment, or didn’t want to. JAYNE ZWEIMAN: I
wasn’t there yet. So it was sort of
like what can I do that I can
potentially succeed at? Not get too frustrated. And what I found was
not just this craft, but I also found this community. And so the knitting community. Who in here knits? Crochets? OK. You should know
all these people. And one of the most
wonderful things is that you can be the most
novice person in a room, and people will take you on. And it’s this process of
learning that is often in a very feminine space. But I think that a
really strong space, and you learn a lot from
the people around you, because they come from
so many backgrounds. ALISON GASS: And
one of the things you’ve talked to
me about as well is that knitting circles,
or knitting classes, kind of tend to be a
place where people start to have real conversations. And that’s, for
whatever reason, it has felt a bit of a
safe space to have difficult political
conversations, even, or things like that. Which I think is interesting. JAYNE ZWEIMAN: Absolutely. JUDY CHICAGO: I would
actually like to comment, because when I apprenticed
myself to the China painters, it was exactly the same. One of the things that
I have not actually talked that much
about is how affected I was by this whole
alternative model, not only of teaching,
but of exhibiting. So that the way China painting– by the time I apprenticed
myself to China painters, China painting had
gone completely into the hands of women. And it was passed down
from mother to daughter. In much the same way you were
talking about knitting circles, the way China painting was
taught is that there would be, like you go to somebody’s
house, and the women would sit around
the kitchen table, and paint and drink coffee,
and talk, and converse. Well this is completely
different from art school. ALISON GASS: Right. JUDY CHICAGO: And also– ALISON GASS: And architecture
school, I’m sure. JUDY CHICAGO: And
also, then I started going into China
painting exhibitions. And I came up out of
university studio art courses. And I came up through
the elitist art world, where the idea of there’s
a small audience for art. And here there are
literally thousands of people at the China
painting exhibitions. So that had a big effect
on me, and the way I structured The Dinner
Party, and my subsequent work. And my art practice, because
I set out deliberately to make my imagery
more accessible, because I saw the possibility– ALISON GASS: Of the
expanded audience. JUDY CHICAGO: Of
the huge audience. ALISON GASS: Of
the huge audience. And when you said about looking
the different techniques, to kind of be able to
create your vision, not for a political reason,
or a gendered reason, I thought of you and
the things you’ve said about how you
turned to knitting, and how the hat came about. Talk to me a little bit about– this is amazing. About, you said
something to me yesterday about how pussy
hat was, of course, about a kind of response to
your accident, and perhaps not being able to go
and march yourself, but also about architecture. That was really interesting. JAYNE ZWEIMAN: So this part. So to me, this is an
architecture project. And the pussy hat is, in
many ways, it’s a diagram. It’s just a rectangle
folded on its side. You put it on your head,
and you get these cat ears. So pussy cat, pussy hat. And then everyone
makes their own, or they give it to someone else. And so that’s kind of like
a modern day barn raising. You’re actually bringing
your brick to the table. So each of these hats,
because they’re handmade, they’re all a little
bit different. So it’s a sea of pink
pixels that everyone contributes to actually making. And so it’s a true
community endeavor. And I think that’s
one of the reasons why it became so successful. I mean, it’s really a
platform for participation, for people to be
able to be involved. We also included a
note that people– a template for notes, so people
could share what women’s rights issue is important to them. So it had this incredible scale
of like the single diagram of the pussy hat, and the actual
knitting circle where people were making them together. And then this huge sort
of site plan of pink. ALISON GASS: Well I think
when you talk about it as an architecture, or even
an urban design project, it completely makes sense to me. As you Google pussycat or
Women’s March, what you see is kind of seas of pink. And I love this image,
which is a rendering. But this is what sort of a
well known city landscapes. And you could see
it across the world. You see the Eiffel Tower
in a sea of pussy hats. Or you see the
Washington Monument in a sea of pussy hats. And then of course it became
this extraordinary cultural icon, and they were everywhere. When did you realize
that was happening? Or how did that happen? JAYNE ZWEIMAN: Well, I think– we had two main goals
when we started. One was to create a
strong visual image so that these ideas
can be better shown. And when you think
of other marches, sometimes it’s really
hard to identify them. So it’s creating that
kind of signifier. And then the other one
was so that other people could represent themselves, who
might not be able to be there. So if you couldn’t go because
you had to work that day, or you couldn’t afford
to fly to DC and march, this was an
opportunity to do that. So as soon as we
actually launched, people were writing me
were nine months– who were going to be
nine months pregnant, who just wanted to march. And they’re like, I
have a way to do it. Thank you. And then other people
with terminal illnesses, or people about to work. And you just started
seeing these people who are all finding ways
to actually get involved. JUDY CHICAGO: Well, you
acknowledge my influence on you. I want to thank
you for the term, because you have solved
a huge problem for me. I just had a show at Jessica
Silverman’s called Pussy Power, Judy Chicago’s Pussies. And then Sarah and I
had a conversation. Well, in interviews for all
these shows, I just had– you were going to ask a
question about essentializing. ALISON GASS: So I was
just going to get there. You start talking about it. JUDY CHICAGO:
Because I got accused of essentializing women,
blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And you got accused
of essential– ALISON GASS: Yes. JUDY CHICAGO: Now when
this question comes up, I get to say, really? Look at the pussy hats. Or go on Instagram, and
look at Club Clitoris. Or go look at Vagina China. I mean, you must be kidding me. You have opened up– ALISON GASS: It’s everywhere. JUDY CHICAGO: You have given
us back the word pussy. I mean, when I was a young
artist in LA hanging out with the guys,
that was the thing that they would say
to each other that was like the worst thing. Don’t be a pussy. ALISON GASS: Yes. JUDY CHICAGO: And, now
everybody wants a pussy hat. ALISON GASS: No,
I think that’s– I’m just so happy you said that. You know, we didn’t talk about– [INAUDIBLE] going backwards. We didn’t talk about it
with The Dinner Party, but obviously I’m sure
everybody in the room knows. But these are vaginal images. You called it at the
Time Central Core imagery, which is– and people did accuse you of
reducing these famous women to vaginal images, to
vaginas, to pussies, even. That’s something that I
think has been going on for a long time, this idea
of some branches of feminism say oh, I don’t like a
essentialist feminism. Some people say it’s offensive. Some people just can’t
even say the word. Talk to me. I know we talked about this
a little bit last night. Talk to me a little bit
about some backlash for you with pussy hat. Whoops, I just keep
going the wrong way. JAYNE ZWEIMAN: OK. Well with pussy hat, it
comes from two parts. One is pussy cat. Pussy hat, because of the form. And also the hot mic. JUDY CHICAGO: And the color. Don’t forget the color. JAYNE ZWEIMAN: And the color. ALISON GASS: Well I want to talk
about the color in a second. So the hot mic thing,
with the Donald Trump. JAYNE ZWEIMAN: And
Donald Trump saying “you can grab them by the pussy.” And so what we’re
really trying to do is to take that word back. Like the idea, don’t
be such a pussy, shouldn’t be that negative. It really, really shouldn’t. JUDY CHICAGO: Like what,
like I used to say. OK, I’m sitting there. What do you do if you have one? Right? JAYNE ZWEIMAN: Exactly. And it shouldn’t be
a derogatory term. ALISON GASS: No, and language
as we talked about last night, can be violent, and
taking back the word pussy has been really important. And I think kind of incredible. Jayne and I just did
a talk in this room a few days ago for a bunch
of third graders talking about pussy hats. And I marched with my
kids, lots of people here marched with kids. And everyone’s wearing
their pussy hat. And the word takes on a
totally different meaning. But you did get a lot of anger. There were people who felt pussy
hat was a problematic endeavor, both because it was sort
of gender essentializing, reducing women. Again, perhaps with the idea
of feminism, to vaginas. But also to the color and the
issues of who has what color pussy. JAYNE ZWEIMAN: The
original intention was never to actually
put a pussy on your head. And I think that was just really
important to be extraordinarily clear about. It was a form. It was a play on words. It’s funny. And so. ALISON GASS: And where
did the pink come from? JAYNE ZWEIMAN: So the pink, when
we thought about the color, Kat Coyle, who designed the hat,
she’s our knitting instructor, we asked for something that was
very clear to design, and also extraordinarily simple to make. That could be easy to just
replicate in different ways. And so we worked
with her on that. And so her name is
Kat, and she put it on. And we’re like, what is it? And she’s like, pussycat. Pussy hat. Pussy power hat. And so the pink was
just– it’s the color associated with girls. Like, if you walk down– a kid is born, and often someone
is like, is it pink or blue? Pink or blue? And it makes no sense. Because those colors
just be switched as well. Like pink used to
be a boy color. ALISON GASS: This is what I want
to talk about your minimalism work. JUDY CHICAGO: You know, I had
a life experience coming up in the ’40s and ’50s. And anybody who works for
change is going to get attacked. My father was a
victim of McCarthy. And I keep thinking about the
period we’re living in now, in relationship to then. ALISON GASS: Yeah. JUDY CHICAGO: You know,
the FBI visited our house when I was six years old. My father was drummed
out of the labor unions. His life was destroyed. So it is, I think one
of the things women, in particular, need to move
to, is an understanding that you’re not going to get
beloved if you make trouble. ALISON GASS: Right. JUDY CHICAGO: Because women
always want to be loved. They want to please. ALISON GASS: Certainly women are
raised, largely, with that as– JUDY CHICAGO: Women continue
to be raised that way. You know? And we really got
to get over that. ALISON GASS: Believe me,
I think about it a lot. JUDY CHICAGO: The
opposite is the opposite. You can measure the
effect by how strong the negative responses. And that’s something,
of course I’m old now and I can understand that when
you’re getting it, which I did, which I did, which you did. It doesn’t feel so good. So it’s like you don’t
have that perspective. But we’ve really
got to get over it. ALISON GASS: Right. We’ve got to get over it. And I think– I think that in many
ways, I was asked to write this essay about
you before the election. And I was very excited to do it. I got my big new job. I was like oh my goodness,
this is going to be a lot. The election happened,
and all of a sudden writing about you, and your
career, and your legacy, and thinking about
the way we could think about people like Jayna and
many other people’s practice, it became for me a political
action in a new way. And what I wanted to say
about the word feminism, is I have also found that
that word has become something that I see younger
women suddenly much more comfortable using. And I think that’s
an interesting thing. So I think there is
indeed a moment where sometimes there, you could
say, oh The Dinner Party, or this feminist practice. It’s a very ’70s thing. Maybe it’s an ’80s thing. It’s not relevant. We look at the
world we’re in now. We look at the way Donald
Trump speaks, others speak. We look at what’s happening
in the news today. These issues are at
the forefront still. We talked about needing to
raise women the same way. So I think the practice
continues to be urgent. This point. JUDY CHICAGO: It is
freezing in here. ALISON GASS: It’s
really cold in here. You want your coat back? JUDY CHICAGO: Yeah,
I want me coat back. ALISON GASS: Michael, can
she have her coat back? JUDY CHICAGO: I
need my coat back. ALISON GASS: I’m going going
to keep going, because we’re going to run out of
time, and we have only gotten to the very beginnings
of both of your careers. Judy, I want to do this
very, very quickly, because I want to use it as
just a quick frame of reference. JUDY CHICAGO: People probably
don’t know what this is. ALISON GASS: People
don’t know what this is. Could you tell us what it is? JUDY CHICAGO: Yes. ALISON GASS: Here’s your coat. JUDY CHICAGO: Thank
you very much. ALISON GASS: Thank you, Michael. JUDY CHICAGO: I hate to
ruined my outfit, but– ALISON GASS: The coat is cool. It looks good. JUDY CHICAGO: OK. When The Dinner Party started
traveling I got ragged on a lot about a lot of things,
including why didn’t you like include this person, or
this person, or this person? So for the first grassroots
exhibition in Houston, I came up with this idea. I was telling Jayna, she’s
thought way far ahead. She thought way far ahead
with the Welcome Blankets. I didn’t think that far ahead
when I had this great idea. I’m like, oh fine,
we’ll develop a kit, and people can make
their own damn quilts. I mean, they can just
make triangular– ALISON GASS: Make it
for any woman they want. JUDY CHICAGO: Honoring
wherever they want, and they can send
them to us, and we’ll put them up with The Dinner
Party as it traveled. So as The Dinner Party
traveled around the world, more and more of these
came, and we still have this little
nonprofit that I had organized to be
a fiscal receiver, to finish The Dinner Party. And it was actually handling
this worldwide tour, with like no staff. But anyway, Through The Flower
ended up with almost 700 of these quilts. ALISON GASS: Oh my goodness. And people would
send them to you. JUDY CHICAGO: Yeah,
they’d send them to us, because we were
the tour organizer. So I asked– I said Jayna,
and what are you doing with all the Welcome Blankets? Well, she’s got a
whole plan, which I’m like oh, I wish I had a plan. ALISON GASS: That’s
built into it. Because finally we
came up with a plan which is that the
International Honor Quilt was gifted to the University
of Louisville, because Kentucky has a
huge quilt tradition. But they are very
much, like when I saw the documentation for the
Welcome Quilt, I mean it was– JAYNE ZWEIMAN: It’s amazing. JUDY CHICAGO: The
documentation, the stories that people wrote about who
they who they made quilts about. Like there was one
series of 12 quilts, called the Stella quilts. There was this woman,
Stella, who had 12 kids. And every one of her kids
made a quilt in her honor. ALISON GASS: Wow. JAYNE ZWEIMAN: Oh,
that’s amazing. JUDY CHICAGO: So it’s very
similar, the documentation. ALISON GASS: And I think
it’s really interesting, because people talk about
Welcome Blanket in relation to the AIDS quilt. But this
is such a similar thing. But what I think– JUDY CHICAGO: No, the
International Honor Quilt preceded the AIDS quilt. ALISON GASS: No I
know, absolutely. I mean, I think this is a really
important point of reference. I want to quickly just explain
Welcome Blanket for people who don’t know what it is. Do you want to take this one? JAYNE ZWEIMAN: Sure. I do this one a lot. So Welcome Blanket. OK, there are some good images. So Welcome Blanket takes
that 2000-mile distance of the proposed
Mexican-American border wall, this length of exclusion,
potentially all concrete, and re-imagines it as
a length of inclusion. So 2000 miles of yarn to
make individual Welcome Blankets for new
refugees, new neighbors, coming to the United States. And with each one, we’re
asking the maker or the makers to include a note about a
story important to their family about immigration, migration,
or relocation, as well as some words of advice,
some words of welcome, to the person who’s
going to receive it. So it creates this
relationship, potentially, between a new
neighbor and someone who’s already been here. And really this huge
show of welcome. ALISON GASS: So I think what’s
really interesting to say, just quickly, and
we are going to keep moving so we can see
more of your practice, is that we positioned it in a
different way from pussy hat. It became a project in
an artistic institutional framework, a museum exhibition. And I think that’s where
the indebtedness to what you have done in your career really
comes up, and the point we’ve made. Pussy hat was a kind of
crowdsourced public art activist action. Welcome Blanket, this exhibition
opened up an empty gallery, and you see this wall
being built through yarn over the run of the show. This is also a point of deep
difference between your two practices. Because for you, the quilt
project, International Quilt Project, is not really your
artistic practice, at all. It was a way to kind of– JUDY CHICAGO: Something
I facilitated. ALISON GASS: It’s
something you facilitated. But The Dinner Party, and
the Holocaust project, which we’ll get to as well,
in much of your career you have worked relatively
collaboratively. The Dinner Party, in particular. There were many
people who came in, but it was always your
design, your vision. That’s something very different. For you, you’ve
really relinquished all aesthetic control. JAYNE ZWEIMAN: Not all control. ALISON GASS: Some
aesthetic control. JUDY CHICAGO: Well,
that’s how they all– one of the things I thought
was so funny in relationship to the Welcome Blankets, and
the International Honor Quilt, our directions said two
foot on a side triangle. And then there’d be this
big, that big a triangle. And I noticed with
the Welcome Blanket, there was some altogether
different shapes. JAYNE ZWEIMAN: Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think that was
actually somewhat a reaction to pussy hat, in that it
really gives the option of make something you’d like to receive. You don’t want it to be pink– JUDY CHICAGO: That would never
happen in my collaboration. ALISON GASS: Right, exactly. No. The Holocaust project
was different, which I did with
mostly my husband, photographer [? Dalton ?]
[? Woodman, ?] with some selected artists. It was a much smaller
group of collaboration. But I mean, the
Welcome Blankets are much more like the International
Honor Quilt. People flocked to it, because it gives them an
avenue for personal expression. ALISON GASS: Yes. So that’s what I wanted to say. I think what’s important to say
is we think about pussy hat, certainly, as a gender
specific reaction, a project about a gender specific issue. We talk about you as this
great feminist artist. Your practice, both
of your practices, have really started with
an ethos of feminism, but it is largely about
social and political progress, and reaction to general
inequalities in the world. And I wanted to make
sure that we kind of came to the rest of your
practice to understand the way the idea of feminism
underpins a lot of this. But we’re talking about
much bigger issues. JUDY CHICAGO: We’re
also talking about how feminism as a philosophy has
evolved over the centuries. ALISON GASS: That’s a
perfect thing to day. JUDY CHICAGO: From focusing
on issues of gender. I mean, in my own practice,
my lens has simply gotten wider and wider. For example, tonight
someone’s here named Martha
[? Nussbaum, ?] who’s from your community at
the University of Chicago. And she’s written
for The Monograph, like [? Eli ?] has, on
my most recent project called The End, A Meditation
On Death And Extinction. And the reason why
I had asked Martha was because of her work on
aging and animal rights. And the fact that also,
for me, my trajectory from the beginning of trying to
create a feminist art practice, has been to try and see if
the female experience can be a path to the universal, the
way male experience has been. In fact, that’s how
universality was defined in art, was through male based art. And so for me, starting
with issues of gender, and then interestingly
enough, my first expansion was from the construct
of femininity to the construct of masculinity. Which when I started,
I went to the library and looked up gender
in the early 1980s, before queer theory,
before masculinity studies, before gender theory. And the only books that
came up were books on women, as if only women had gender,
the same way that only people of color have race. Because the white
male experience has been the avenue
through which we’ve supposedly experienced
and seen the universal. So expanding that gaze
to embrace all first– all peoples who have
been marginalized, whose experiences. But if you think about
it the female experience of victimization is
more like the most peoples’ on the planet. Most people are not
winners on the planet. Most people are
victims on the planet. Whether they’re
victims of genocide, or victims of gender inequality,
or victims of harassment, abuse. I mean that’s more the
universal human experience, and certainly is the
experience of many creatures on the planet. So what’s feminism? What does feminism have
to do with all this? For me, feminism is
a philosophy that challenges the entire structure
of dominance on the planet. And is committed to
overturning that, so that all people,
and all creatures, have the right to live with
dignity for their loss. And that’s what
feminism is for me. And so welcoming, it’s not
moving away from feminism. ALISON GASS: I’m going to bring
us to this work that you made. JUDY CHICAGO: Sorry. Let’s just move along
through my work. ALISON GASS: It’s moving. There’s more Welcome Blanket. I think we’ve talked a lot. We didn’t get to go
through a lot of work, and we’ve been talking
for now almost 50 minutes. And we probably should
open it up to the audience. So let’s do that,
and we’ll continue to have the conversation
through these questions. So thank you both so much for
giving us this incredible lens on [INAUDIBLE]. [APPLAUSE] JUDY CHICAGO: Could you
introduce yourself first? AUDIENCE: Yes I was
just wondering if– JUDY CHICAGO: Who are you? ALISON GASS: You mind
saying your name? We’d like to know
who we’re talking to. AUDIENCE: I’m Melissa Cook. I’m a former lab parent,
and a lover of art. I was wondering, given
though, the death of Linda Nochlin, if
you have any comments or any relationship
with her to talk about. ALISON GASS: I certainly do. Linda was my great mentor,
and I went to graduate school to study with Linda. Linda most famously wrote
this article, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” which has something
you sort of said, and was something
that you reacted to in a very different way from
an artistic perspective. I also think there’s a lot
going on with Linda’s death, where it was very
meaningful for me to have this conversation
about a legacy of feminist art practice. Linda died this past Sunday. So yes, I don’t know. Judy, I know you knew Linda. JUDY CHICAGO: Yeah. Not well. ALISON GASS: Well
yes, but Linda, I think in the realm of
art historical language, was a figure very
parallel to Judy, who was doing it through
practice of making certainly. I also think something Judy
and I have talked about, and and part of
the reason we’re so thrilled that Martha Nussbaum
is here and his writing, is that there has been a
problem in the art world recently in terms
of art criticism, and people who are writing
seriously and thoughtfully about art. And I think both of
you make the case that your practices
have a great deal to do with a larger
understanding of the world in general, with
philosophy, with economics, things like that. And so it’s really incredibly
exciting to think about there you are, think about people
who are writing and engaging with artistic practice from a
very different and unexpected background. Linda Nochlin was
someone who did it firmly within the language
of the history of art, but brought in the social and
political in a different way. So it’s really wonderful
to have that expanding out. Thank you for that question. Other questions? Yeah. AUDIENCE: My name
is [? Rocco. ?] I’m an art historian. Question about The Dinner Party. What are some ways that you can
see the future of The Dinner Party, now that you could
not anticipate before? And sort of talking
about the Brooklyn show, and sort of the
exhibitions that have sort of around it, in
the Sackler Center, where do you see The Dinner
Party’s role in the future? JUDY CHICAGO: Well,
at The Dinner Party accounts for 20% of the
traffic to the Brooklyn Museum. And– ALISON GASS: Which is amazing. JUDY CHICAGO: And
I imagine that, and hope that in the
future it will continue to bring such a big audience
from around the world, because it talks
about, by implication, the exclusion of
so many histories from the history of
Western civilization. I mean, I took the
structure of how we all learned the history
of Western civilization, and basically told
that same story through a series of
female figures instead of male figures. And it could be told through
the eyes of African-Americans, Native Americans,
gay and lesbians, because the history, as we’ve
learned it, is so narrow. So The Dinner Party is a
critique of the way history is written. Is that going to change
in the next few minutes? Probably not. So until it changes, The Dinner
Party will remain relevant. Right? AUDIENCE: Hi. Larry Fields. First of all, thank
you Ali for what you’re doing in Chicago Expo. Welcome to Chicago. ALISON GASS: Thank you. AUDIENCE: The Chicago
art institutions, within the last week, you’ve
heard of Amy Suleman, a Laurie Simmons talk, a Judy
Chicago, of course, you know. The conversation about
women in the arts is ongoing, but even more
essential today than ever. At least we’re
getting out there. The couple takeaways I had,
I want you to comment on, was #1 how brutal it was to
be involved in the New York or these urban scenes,
’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. #2, I realized
that women artists do stick together and
create a great support for women coming into the arts. And #3, and more importantly,
the more things change, the more they don’t. So where are we at
now in your own mind? And where do we go from here? ALISON GASS: That’s
fantastic, thank you. That was a question at the end? OK. Where are we at now, and
where do we go from here? JUDY CHICAGO: Well, I mean. I appreciate the question
being cast within the framework of the art world. Because that’s
where I’ve fought. I’ve fought within the
structure of the art world to change the art world. And where I think we are is
there’s been a lot of change, but most of it is
on an entry level. Where there has been very
little change is at the top, in terms of
institutional change. And that is what has to happen. There has to be significant
institutional change, because through institutions,
culture is passed down. And the reason the
battle has been so fierce is that there is huge amount
of intellectual and financial capital invested in a particular
narrative, in both academia and in museums. And changing that is a
really long, hard struggle. ALISON GASS: And it’s something
I think we take very seriously, those of us who are in the
position, in institutions. Certainly about women,
there are many, many women of course working
in the art world. The numbers of women
who are museum directors is still staggeringly low. And that’s something
to think about. But diversity in general, there
have been a lot of studies recently about how not diverse
the profession of museum practice is, or
even art history. And that’s something,
when we think about using a feminist
language as a lens onto a much larger
practice, that’s something that I take very seriously. And one of the
reasons I was really excited to come to the
University of Chicago and to this city to be part
of a conversation of a place where I think you’re seeing a
deep commitment to diversity, in every way, in every aspect. And I think as you watch the
Smart Museum, in particular, we are spending this year
deeply thinking about what is a great university art
museum collection and program, and how can we tell
stories that reflect the life experience
of hopefully, any and every visitor who
comes into the museum. So I think we have a
lot of people, artists, museum curators, and directors,
gallerists, who are seriously thinking about this. And it’s top of mind,
which I think hopefully suggests the
possibility of change. Go ahead. AUDIENCE: Hi. Thank you so much
for being here. My name is Michelle Murphy. I’m an artist in the
community, and a recent grad of the Art Institute. And I just want to say that
The Dinner Party was definitely influential in my
undergraduate art studies. And it forced me to look at
Western history throughout the years, in terms of what
stories and narratives are popularized, and
which ones aren’t. Specifically, in my
practice, I studied the history of exploration,
space exploration, and how that has been gendered,
and primarily white men go to space, if we look at
the numbers and the history. And a lot of people know, Hidden
Figures, or the Mercury 13, but there’s a lot
more narratives. There were two men of
color that were in training to become astronauts. There were 13 women. And they did not become
part of the Apollo program. So that’s, in my
research, that was heavily influential to what
I made art about, starting from undergrad forward. So I want to thank
you for lifting the veil off my lens of how
Western history is shown. And my question for you
is what led you to want to revision Western history? What led you to want a revision? ALISON GASS: What
led you to want to revision Western history? Your experience, right? Your experience of not having
been taught Western history? I won’t answer for you. I did answer for you. JUDY CHICAGO: I don’t
quite understand– ALISON GASS: So like I
guess what was the impetus to want to retell
the story, to recast the story of Western
civilization? JUDY CHICAGO: Because
it was fucked. ALISON GASS: Yeah. Because it was fucked. AUDIENCE: And it still is, and
body work, female body work. I had a breast image
that I wasn’t on allowed to face the street. They are still censored. ALISON GASS: Yeah. That’s a really important point. Thank you. OK, we’ll go over here. Then we have time
probably for the people who are still standing. OK. AUDIENCE: Hi. I’m [? Anja Pomekala, ?]
and I very literally grew up with Judy Chicago. I actually had a question
more based because both of you are multimedia artists. I was wondering where the media
intersects to influence either your concept, or how
your concepts influence which medias you use to
express your projects? ALISON GASS: That’s
a good question. JAYNE ZWEIMAN: That’s
an awesome question. For me, a lot of times,
the form actually follows the function of what
you want something to do. With both pussy hat,
and Welcome Blanket, it had a lot to do with actually
harnessing the communities, so the people who are
making these hats. The ability of being able
to make something by hand, and really looking at was
often considered women’s work, as something that’s often
denigrated, as something that’s actually really,
really powerful. So it naturally led to this
very traditional women’s craft. And I think it’s– when you were talking
about auto body work, I feel like you often
look for the way to be able to express the
thing that you want to show. And you gather those tools to
be able to do them, and work with other people
who have already developed a lot of techniques,
and how to make them happen. JUDY CHICAGO: Good answer. ALISON GASS: That
is a good answer. AUDIENCE: Thank you. AUDIENCE: I’m
[? Gail Tanzer, ?] I went to the
University of Chicago, and I write historical
fiction books about artists. But I read the book,
The Invention Of Wings. I’m sure you’re
familiar with that. And Sue Monk Kidd
got so inspired– JUDY CHICAGO: The Grimkes– AUDIENCE: The Grimkes, it was. I don’t know if you
folks have written, have read The
Invention Of Wings. That’s another way
that your career is keeping to influence others. And I just thought
that was really cool. ALISON GASS: Thank you. All right. Go ahead. JUDY CHICAGO: She
didn’t know who the Grimkes were, even though
she grew up in South Carolina. Which is, the Grimke sisters
were major abolitionists and feminists. And Sue Monk Kidd discovered
them in The Dinner Party, and wrote this
whole book on them. And it got all kinds of
prizes, and it’s a great– it’s a wonderful book. ALISON GASS: It’s
a wonderful book. JUDY CHICAGO: But it does attest
to the question you were asking about the failure of
institutions, the fact that she did know about
them, that young women still aren’t taught about
women’s history, unless they take a
specialized course. ALISON GASS: A specific
class to learn. JUDY CHICAGO: Why shouldn’t
men have to study our history? We have to study theirs. I mean, give me a break. ALISON GASS: All right. We have time, I
think, for one more. Two more. We’ll do this, and this
will be our last. one. AUDIENCE: My name is
Elena [? Zinczenko. ?] And I work here
at the university, and my question I think
is more about Marxism, and the interesting
experiment that would– I’m from Russia. So in a couple of days,
it will be the centennial of the Russian Revolution. And the Smart Museum
has a beautiful exhibit on the art propaganda
from the ’20s and ’30s, where women are put
front and center as absolutely equal to men,
and actually taking the burden. And these are the messages
that I’ve grown up with. This was the political
agenda for now a century, coupled with an interesting
historical experiment of men being wiped out for
three generations, with revolution, and famines,
and then the Second World War. And even though older
Russian women grew up with this, lack of man and
kind of carrying the honor and the burden of being
the primary winners, I see an incredible
backlash in Russia. And I’d like to
come here, and there are people women are pretty good
at embracing patriarchy, being very tired of being the
engineers and, accountants, having to work. And really wanting
to just stay home and having men protect them. And there isn’t a narrative
yet for people like my friends and me, to counteract that. To counteract this kind
of message of patriarchy. So if you have any comments
on here’s an experiment. 100 years of women
equality, that crumbles in front our eyes. JUDY CHICAGO: See, this is
where knowing women’s history is really helpful. Because if you know
women’s history, if the institutions were doing
their jobs, and teaching it. Then you’d know that
women’s history tells a story of pushing forward,
pushing backward, pushing forward, pushing backwards. We’re just in another
period of pushing backwards. I’m glad it’s awakened
a lot of young women. But the fact is this isn’t
the first time in history this has happened, that there
has been a reassertion of male centered patriarchal values. I mean, if you’ve read any
of the analyses of the photos of the Trump administration,
what you see is a sea of white men, no women. it’s strategic. If you look at Russia,
you know you’ve got this strong man
phenomena all over, again after a period of chaos. And so everybody grabs on to it. It’s not a surprise. It’s not a surprise. It’s only a surprise if
you don’t know history. ALISON GASS: Right. AUDIENCE: But it’s
temporary, hopefully. JUDY CHICAGO: What?. AUDIENCE: But it’s a
temporary kind of backlash. JUDY CHICAGO: Yeah, but
when you’re living in it– ALISON GASS: It
doesn’t feel temporary. JUDY CHICAGO: It’s like, excuse
me, it doesn’t feel good. And why do we have to
go backwards yet again? Why do we have to go backwards? ALISON GASS: And we
don’t have to have a whole political analysis. We don’t have time. But I would argue
that something not that dissimilar we’re seeing
happening in the United States as well. So, all right. Last question. AUDIENCE: Hello. My name is [? Yetta Star, ?]
I’m a designer in Chicago. And you’ve been talking
about women’s history through print, and
art, and architecture. And I’m curious what your
impression, or your thoughts are, on the impact
of social media on the historical narrative? Both, it’s a very
hot topic right now. But it’s kind of wide open. I’m just curious. JAYNE ZWEIMAN: Well, I think
we’re an exciting time. I think 20 years from now,
we’re going to look back, and I think 20 years
from now, we’re going to look back and
think we were really all naive about social
media as this kind of uncharted territory. And in understanding
how Judy put together The Dinner Party as this
crowdsourced collective action in the ’70s, it’s amazing
that you got that together. In the same way with pussy hat– ALISON GASS: It was a
crowdsourced collective, actually. The tour. JUDY CHICAGO: This
thing is, I hoped you would talk about something
you talked about last night, is that you’ve actually been
a victim of social media, as a result of what you’ve done. JAYNE ZWEIMAN: Oh, sure. JUDY CHICAGO: And in terms
of this question of how social media is operating now. AUDIENCE: And also how it
is defining the history. JAYNE ZWEIMAN: How is what? AUDIENCE: How it’s
defining the history. ALISON GASS: Well, talk
about what happened, what’s been happening. JAYNE ZWEIMAN: Well,
what you’ve often seen is that we’re tagged a lot. You see it in a lot of
places, and it’s really helped us disseminate the idea. So I think in that way
it’s been very powerful. And also I’m really
interested in a relationship between both the physical
and the digital communities. And you see a lot of people
who are in Boise, Idaho, who were not necessarily around
people who think the same, who don’t feel like they have a
community in terms of how they feel about women’s
rights, talking with people in different
parts of the country. So it actually opens it up and
can create these communities. Judy’s referring to
trolls who have written me about going into gas
chambers, and it’s one of those things
that my reaction. One, it’s horrifying. And I also knew that
we had made an impact, because some horrible person had
written me something completely violent. And I think it has
two sides to it. So as the world kind of
opens up and everyone can sort of say
what they want, that means that everyone gets to say. JUDY CHICAGO: Yes, so there’s
a dark side to social media. ALISON GASS: Absolutely. And you talked about
how you kind of keep yourself unavailable. Certainly you have a website,
you have an Instagram, but you’re not the one. No one can write to
you directly on that. JUDY CHICAGO: Not su much, no. ALISON GASS: Not so much. JUDY CHICAGO: They seem to have
had much more access to Jayna. ALISON GASS: Yeah, but
Jayna has used it as a tool. When we announced Welcome
Blanket, when Jayna announced Welcome Blanket, before we had
even dropped a press release, and gotten the
gallery ready, people were sending Welcome Blankets. So that’s entirely because of
your social media following . JAYNE ZWEIMAN: And
what I think is really exciting
about both pussy hat and Welcome Blanket is really
harnessing social media for good. So I don’t necessarily read my
email and the negative things that come in very often. So hopefully they kind
of go to the wayside into the spam folder. But I think there’s
something really exciting about using this
medium to be able to connect, and being able to share. And I think there’s a lot
of potential with that. And we see both sides of
it, us becoming very siloed, and having echo chambers, and
only hearing what we want. But I think there is
potential for really building community, and having more
complex conversations. I think it just takes
a little bit more time. And with Welcome
Blanket, we kind of have that online
presence, but also sort of the knitting circle,
and sort of that opportunity to have those conversations. ALISON GASS: Thank you. That was a really good question. OK, we could clearly
go on for days. We have to stop. I’m incredibly
grateful to you, Jayna. And thank you so
much to you, Judy. [APPLAUSE]

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