Not so fast….
It’s not only what the same newspaper calls “The sleepy little town of Belen, New Mexico,” a nearly collapsed former railroad stop where all the shops are boarded up, that rejects the town’s proposal to build a small museum for Judy’s work. Judy and her husband, Donald Woodman, have made their home in a refurbished hotel there for the past 26 years and have contributed their presence, and the presence of her foundation, “Through the Flower,” to the town’s survival. But Belen is not alone in rejecting the threat of what one inhabitant called “protesters with pitchforks and torches.”
Years ago, her major installation, “The Dinner Party” couldn’t find a permanent home at any museum and went into storage, apparently forever. The equivalent, on a smaller scale, was Ann Stewart Anderson’s “Hot Flash Fan,” purchased by the Kentucky Foundation for Women but also eventually headed for storage.
Judy’s major installation was saved by a timely gift to the Brooklyn Museum, which now has a wing devoted to (do we dare to call it?) feminist art, with changing exhibits from all over the world, the “Hot Dinner Party” the jewel in the museum’s crown. Yet a crowd of rich public-minded women who met at the museum some years ago to discuss their projects couldn’t even bring themselves to view “The Dinner Party.” You see, it represents famous women in history through ceramic images of—you guessed it—that part.
You know what part I’m talking about. Does anyone reading this post dare to say the word out loud? When I was a girl, it was dismissed, sotto voce, with a shudder, as “Down there”…
How far have we come?
Not very far, and not very fast.
Judy’s museum won’t happen in Belen, even with money already pledged, because the community is dominated by evangelical churches—not the Roman Catholic church, which has not said anything on the topic, having learned, perhaps, over time that protesting the future is fruitless. The evangelical churches, in Belen and elsewhere, hold to a doctrine of what I call Primeval Purity, expressed by a nineteen-year-old nursing student:” We are for order, justice, security and protection…I’m for protecting the eyes of the innocent, especially the children.”
Sometimes I’m grateful for the old Roman Catholic doctrine of Original Sin that held there is no innocent being, even a newborn, since Eve’s fall. That’s in line with what we all know—if we are daring enough to admit it—about the nature of humanity, and especially of women and girls. We know more about ourselves, our parts and our world, then we are allowed to say.
Judy’s museum may find a home in the nearby tiny town of Mountainair.
And all those so-called innocent eyes may find themselves opened to reality—if they are ever allowed to see Judy Chicago’s work.
For more: Artist, Painter, Anne Stewart Anderson discusses her 60 year retrospective exhibition of paintings, Looking Back/Moving Forward at PYRO Art Gallery in Louisville, Kentucky:
In this TED Talk, Eve Ensler declares that there is a girl cell in us all — a cell that we have all been taught to suppress: