BEYOND THE FLOWER: The Autobiography of a Feminist Artist by Judy Chicago

BEYOND THE FLOWER: The Autobiography of a Feminist Artist

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A confessional from the grande dame of the feminist art movement. This second volume of Chicago's autobiography (preceded by Through the Flower, 1975) is a mixed bag: at once self-righteous and arrogant, tragic and touching. Chicago says that she has written this ""to resolve some of the conflicts I was experiencing in regard to my life as an artist."" Inadequate funding and exposure for her work are paramount among her concerns. For Chicago, who came into prominence in the 1970s as one of the first feminist artists, these problems have led to a crisis about whether to continue creating art. The book is ultimately focused on--and becomes, in part, a manifesto to save--The Dinner Party, her 1979 celebration of ""women's sexuality, history, and crafts,"" which established her reputation. Chicago immediately became a pioneer and heroine in feminist art circles, and the joke of the male-dominated art world. With much effort, Chicago has managed to have the work exhibited throughout the world. But a chance to have it housed permanently at the University of the District of Columbia fell through after it was deemed pornographic by Congress. The Dinner Party is now back in storage along with Chicago's other major pieces, Birth Project and The Holocaust Series. None of these works have brought Chicago the critical approval she has sought, and not one has been purchased by a major museum--bitter medicine for a woman with an inflated sense of her own importance. This memoir is permeated by Chicago's excruciating despair and speckled with self-pity. As a counterpoint to her artistic trials, Chicago's accounts of her personal struggles and family tragedies are painfully honest. An uneven and, at times, undignified autobiography that redeems itself as a stark commentary on the grim position of artists today.

Pub Date: March 8th, 1996
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Viking