Judy Chicago – Mary Wollstonecraft Test Plate #8
Dimensions: 14 x 14 x 3″
Medium: China paint on porcelain
Judy Chicago’s Mary Wollstonecraft test plate was a preliminary work for the plate that now rests on the table of her most famous work–The Dinner Party. This plate design is dedicated to a woman who, like Chicago, was far ahead of her time Mary Wollstonecraft watched her submissive mother be bullied by her father, and she decided to educate young girls and women not to accept that kind of treatment by men. Her work “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” moved society forward to establish the importance of educating women and men equally.
This plate was exhibited in the Miami Institute of Contemporary Art exhibition Judy Chicago: A Reckoning, reproduced in the accompanying catalog in 2019.
The design on the Mary Wollstonecraft plate resembles a butterfly. Like the butterfly–symbol of transformation–Mary Wollstonecraft transformed society with her writing, just as Judy Chicago transformed society when she created “The Dinner Party.” Chicago had to transform, like the butterfly here, the male-centric perception of art history to include the contributions of women. The trajectory was daunting and Chicago had to mobilize armies of women to join her in changing the art world. But Chicago never quit. She harnessed her enormous heart and determination to pave the way for women artists everywhere.
-Tonya Turner Carroll
Judy Chicago is a pioneer of feminist art. Since the early 1970s, Judy Chicago advocates issues of women’s liberation and independence through diverse media including paintings, drawings, sculptures, and collaborative installations. Her iconic work “The Dinner Party,” (1974—1979), which is now permanently installed in the Brooklyn Museum of Art’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, is widely regarded as one of the most influential works of feminist art. With Miriam Schapiro, Chicago co-founded the Feminist Art Program at the California Institute of the Arts—the first program of its kind—and collaborated on the formative installation Womanhouse (1972). More recently, Chicago has expanded upon her efforts in gender politics, focusing on broader social issues. Her work has been exhibited extensively at venues such as the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, the New Museum, the Centre Pompidou, the Whitney Museum, and the Jewish Museum in New York.
Judy Chicago speaks of her work as “trying to infuse women and women’s history with a sense of the sacred and the valuable, because there are all these things associated with women that have been devalued: our bodies, our crafts, our history,” continuing on to say she “tried to bring the same thing to bear on [her] work.”