Contextual studies, Project 1, Stage 2, An in-depth study

23 April 2016

Choosing one artist/designer from the list from Stage 1, this in-depth study takes the from of an illustrated essay of not more than 2000 words, looking at their work and the issues related to it.

My choice of artist – Judy Chicago:

I selected Judy Chicago because her most notable work “the Dinner Party” was produced in the context of the emerging feminist art movement of California/L.A. in the late 1960s/early 1970s. It was a highly controversial at the time and continues to promote debate. The concept of feminist art is a subject which I find fascinating; it is dynamic, thought provoking and at times risqué. There are some issues which I am interested in exploring through my own artwork in future.

My approach:

The biggest challenge with this project was the limit of just 2000 words. I would normally consider an in-depth study to be at least 10,000 words, so I had to choose my topics carefully and keep focused on the message that I wanted to get across.

I started by printing out by the Wikipedia entry for Judy Chicago. Although I would never reference this source directly, it provided a useful starting point, highlighting main events in the artist’s life, and helping me navigate around the volume of information on the web and in print. 

I then sourced and printed off selected articles from the Internet, focusing on the areas of Chicago’s work which interested me most – particularly “The Dinner Party” and work leading up to it, life influences and political context. I borrowed several books from Norwich University library, including Judy Chicago’s autobiography, and reviews of her career and artworks by other authors.

I produced several pages of my own typed notes – shorthand of the text I had read, designed to help me extract the salient points and to know where to go back and find references. Once this was complete, I used it to draft an outline plan. I then began to write the essay. The plan helped me remember all the points I wanted to express and put them in and an order which was logical and made sense. I re-examined my work as it progressed (particularly in view of the balance and emphasis), and I adjusted the plan accordingly. I have written my essay slightly different from how I would normally, making explicit reference to my own opinion (as I understand this is what the assessors would like to see).


What I have learnt from this exercise:

The task highlighted the complexity of unraveling the comments of art critics, who may have underlying alternative motives for their remarks. Like politics, it is always possible to argue a point! The act of writing the essay has been most thought provoking. I have had to consider how I feel about “The Dinner Party”, in the context of both the era in which it was first exhibited, and how it would be received today. I hope I have correctly identified the content and presented well balanced and concise arguments.

I was only able to obtain Pointon’s book (1) after my essay had been written, and there were some points which I would probably have brought out more strongly, had I read the text first. Specifically, to have been more precise about collaboration, about who made criticisms about Chicago’s work, in what capacity, and when.

The importance of “where and how” the work is shown, is a point which is also made clearly by in Pointon’s book (1). Originally shown in 1979, “The Dinner Party” was later included in the exhibition “Sexual politics: Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party in Feminist art history” curated by Amelia Jones in 1996. In this exhibition,  “The Dinner Party” was shown together with other feminist artworks which had been produced in the intervening years. (2) The context was completely different from the original exhibition, which undoubtedly affected the way the work was viewed and how it was critiqued. Jones drew criticism for the prominence she gave to Chicago’s work, as the centrepiece of the exhibition, and the that fact five prominent female artists (including Miriam Schapiro, a former collaborator of Chicago’s) refused to exhibit their work. (3) Again, this would have been an interesting point to draw out in my essay.



1. Pointon, M (2014) History of Art. A student handbook. 5th Edition. London and New York. Routledge.

2. Brooklyn museum [n.d.] “The Dinner Party”: Tour and home. [online]. Available from: [Accessed 30 May 2016]

3. Jones, A. (2006) Aesthetics and sexual politics: Arts sexual politics. In: Mobile fidelities. Pachmanova, M. n.paradoxa online issue no. 19 pp.53 [online]. Available from: [Accessed 30 May 2016]

The references for my essay are copied directly into the bibliography and are not reproduced here.. 





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