WOMEN TALK BACK
Published 06 Jul 2017
In the frontline of addressing and answering to the issues that women face today are the women themselves. Among the empowered women that this paper aims to present are Judy Chicago and Audre Lorde, two of the greatest artist of this time. Judy Chicago uses the power of the pen, sculpting, and painting to give due recognition to the women and the integration of women into the field of art (Microsoft Encarta, 2006). On the other hand, Audre Lorde is a poet who used her creative imagination to “stress the need for women to organize across sexualities” and to fight against the discrimination of black lesbians by both the whites and the blacks (Martinez).
Judy Chicago: Her Life and Talking Back
Judy Chicago was born in 1939 in Chicago with the name Judy Cohen (Microsoft Encarta, 2006). Later on, she decided to change her name to Judy Chicago, which indicated the place where she was born. She was educated at the Art Institute of Chicago while she was still attending her elementary and high school classes, showing a very high interest for art at a very early age (Microsoft Encarta, 2006). Later on, she earned her Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A) degree at the University of California in Los Angeles in 1964 (Microsoft Encarta, 2006). After this, she went to the California State University where she established an art program with a female perspective (Microsoft Encarta, 2006). She repeated the same kind of art program in the California Institute of Art in Valencia (Microsoft Encarta, 2006).
With this liking for art, she fought for women recognition through painting, sculpting, and writing several books (ThroughtheFlower.org). The first major achievement of Chicago is the installation of the Womanhouse project, which demonstrated an “openly female point of view in art” (ThroughtheFlower.org). Between 1974 and 1979, Chicago did her famous work, The Dinner Party, displayed at over sixteen (16) exhibits in over six (6) countries (ThroughtheFlower.org). The Dinner Party is a piece of art showcasing the history of women in the Western Civilization (ThroughtheFlower.org). The permanency of this painting at this Brooklyn Museum will contribute to the recognition of the women and their contributions. In addition to her works are the Birth Project, Powerplay, Holocaust Project: From Darkness into Light, Resolutions: A Stitch in Time, and a number of books authored by her.
Indeed, her chosen form of responding to the lack of recognition for women’s contribution in the history, which is through art, is appropriate. In this world, pieces of art are like the ones created by Chicago are among the things that last for quite a long time. Remember when scientists discovered art pieces and paintings in the walls of several caves. This goes to show that art is a very important means of making people remember and see something even after the one who created it has passed away. Just the same, the works of Chicago will last for a considerable length of time and this will serve as the constant reminder for the people about the significant contributions of women and other things about women that lack appreciation.
Audre Lorde: Her Life and Talking Back
Audre Lorde, 5 years older than Judy Chicago, was born on February 18, 1934 in New York City to West Indian parents (Martinez). She finished her studies at the Hunter College and earned her master’s degree in library studies in Columbia University in 1961 (Martinez). After which, she had worked as a librarian at the Columbia University, a lecturer in creative writing at the Hebert H. Lehman College, Associate Professor of English in John Jay College of Criminal Justice, English teacher at Hunter College, a poet in residence at Tougaloo College, and a visiting lecturer throughout the United States (Martinez). After the failure of her marriage in 1970, she had relationships with women (Martinez). In 1992, she died of cancer (Martinez).
She uses the prose and romanticism mixed with strength in her poetry to fight against the discrimination of the lesbians by both the whites and the blacks, especially with the black lesbians. One of her famous quotations on lesbianism goes something like this: “Any world which did not have a place for me loving women was not a world in which I wanted to live, nor one which I could fight for” (Lorde qtd in Microsoft Encarta, 2006). She writes poems, novels, and other forms of literature that advocate this agenda of hers. Among her most celebrated works are Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, Cancer Journals, “Sisters in Arms” from Our Dead Behind Us, The First Cities,
The New York Head Shop and Museum, The Black Unicorn, and Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power (Martinez). Central to her works are themes of lesbianism, love, and women empowerment.
Writing is indeed one of the best forms of advocating a certain purpose. The letters lasts through time and just like Chicago’s chosen form, is something that is accessible to a lot of people. This has a limitation, however, for those who can not read and does not easily capture the meaning of Lorde’s works. Despite this, the works of Lorde transcends through borders of different countries.
Art as a Means of Responding to Women Issues
Art, in its entirety, is an effective means of women advocates in addressing the issues that women face today. With art, I wish to mean the crafts that came from the heart of artists as a result of their emotions and attachments. With this, it includes poetry, painting, sculpting, and writing. Although art may have its different backgrounds, it is something where people even of different cultures can come together and share, somehow, common interests.
Thus, art is a good avenue for conveying ideas for the general public. Also, because it comes from the emotions of a person, it also creates a connection to the people as something with strong emotions even if they have not seen the artist personally.
Just like what Chicago did on her sculptures and paintings that are now in different museums, Lorde also has her literary pieces in circulation. Both Chicago and Lorde were able to shake up international feminist movements in Art because of their ideas. With this, both artists were able to prove that talking back does not necessarily have to be through spoken words.
Discrimination of Women
The issue of discrimination against women has increased in intensity as compared to the olden times. However, it remains to be a persistent dilemma that needs to be addressed incessantly. Discrimination against women may include domestic violence, discrimination in the workplace, sexual harassment and abuse, and others of the same nature (Dorsen and Lieberman, 2005).
Chicago perceives of this discrimination to exist in the lack of recognition towards the contributions made by women in the Western Civilization. Thus, she was able to create a work that showcases the contributions of women and be able to put them up in a pedestal for both women and men to see. This was followed by more pieces of art that presents the importance of women in the society. The form she used was successful and has actually reached a very wide audience. Just the same, Lorde was able to contribute to the intensification of the fight against discrimination of black lesbians and to the empowerment of women. She used the might that is held by her pen and reached a lot of readers through her touching poems, novels, and essays. This is also successful and effective since the use of powerful and convincing words actually leads the readers to be awakened with the issues that women face.
- “Judy Chicago.” Microsoft® Encarta® 2006 [CD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2005.
- “Lesbianism.” Microsoft® Encarta® 2006 [CD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2005.
- Dorsen, Norman, and Lieberman, Jethro K. “Discrimination.” Microsoft® Encarta® 2006 [CD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2005.
- Martinez, E. “Lorde Audre” in glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture, ed. Claude J. Summers.
- ThroughtheFlower.org, Judy Chicago.