Judy Chicago – Butterfly for Pomona from the On Fire Suite
Dimensions: 20 x 24″ paper / 13.25 x 20″ plate
Medium: archival pigment print on paper
Edition: ed. 10
In 2012, Chicago staged A Butterfly for Pomona, her first fireworks piece since A Butterfly for Oakland in 1974. Commissioned by the Pomona College Art Museum, and working with Pyro Spectaculars, Chicago lit up the Pomona College football field with A Butterfly for Pomona.
Chicago, born Judy Cohen, was a key figure in California minimalism who came to prominence making brightly colored abstract geometric paintings and sculptures in the 1960s. By the end of the decade, her feminist politics led to a new identity (she began using the city of her birth as her last name) and new ways of creating and teaching art. In 1968, Chicago began working with fireworks and flares in site-specific interventions titled Atmospheres that momentarily “feminized” found environments. Collaborative performances followed, like that captured in Smoke Bodies, featuring painted female bodies and matching colored smoke plumes set against the stark desert landscape. The performers were students in the groundbreaking Feminist Art Program founded by Chicago in 1970, originally at California State College, Fresno, after she realized existing college art curricula were entirely shaped by male artists. In 1974, Chicago set off fireworks around the Oakland Art Museum grounds to ignite the outline of a massive butterfly, a celebration of the feminine. She then turned her attention to her most iconic project, The Dinner Party (1974−−79), which used “women’s arts” such as tapestry and other textile techniques and china painting to celebrate women’s histories. She did not return to fireworks until 2012, when she recreated this pyrotechnic butterfly at Pomona College in Claremont, California.