Beyond the Flower: The Autobiography of a Feminist

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Anais Nin heralded the first volume of Judy Chicago's autobiography, Through the Flower, as "remarkable" and "invaluable for all women." Now, twenty years on, Chicago takes us Beyond the Flower, lifting the veil of the international public persona she has become since her influential work The Dinner Party, and revealing her very personal struggles as an artist and a woman in late-twentieth-century America. With the same intense intimacy and unabashed probing of issues of gender, power, and history that ...
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Overview

Anais Nin heralded the first volume of Judy Chicago's autobiography, Through the Flower, as "remarkable" and "invaluable for all women." Now, twenty years on, Chicago takes us Beyond the Flower, lifting the veil of the international public persona she has become since her influential work The Dinner Party, and revealing her very personal struggles as an artist and a woman in late-twentieth-century America. With the same intense intimacy and unabashed probing of issues of gender, power, and history that characterize her monumental works of art and made Through the Flower a classic in the literature of women and the arts, she asks hard questions about the role of art in our culture. Judy Chicago's contagious and affirmative energy suffuses Beyond the Flower, and this volume will excite and provoke dialogue among feminists, art lovers, and talented women rising through the ranks of any profession - or now taking stock of their lives.

This detailed portrait of the evolution of internationally renowned artist, writer, and feminist Judy Chicago--creator of The Dinner Party and Holocaust Project--lifts the veil of the public persona she has become and reveals Chicago's personal struggles as an artist and feminist in late 20th-century America. 24 pp. of photos. 8 pp. of color plates. 304 pp. Targeted ads. Author publicity. Radio publicity. 8,000 print.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
When feminist artist Judy Chicago (born Judy Cohen) published her first autobiographical memoir, Through the Flower, which left off in the early 1970s, she believed that the aim of art was empowerment and social change. Writing this less fiery, more introspective sequel in semirural Albuquerque, where she lives with her husband and many cats, she despairs over whether there is any point in continuing to make art. Summing up her career, she evokes the collaborative energies that went into such projects as The Dinner Party, a multimedia, symbolic history of women, and Birth Project, an installation that portrays the childbirth experience as a heroic struggle. She and her husband, photographer Donald Woodman, rediscovered their Jewish roots in working on Holocaust Project, a touring exhibition that uses the Nazi genocide as a prism to probe the global structure of abusive power and powerlessness. Illustrations. Author tour. (Mar.)
Library Journal
One of the earliest organizers of the 1970s women's movement in art, Chicago has remained a high-profile, controversial multimedia feminist artist. These two works can be read as sequels/updates to Chicago's three previous books: her outspoken Through the Flower (LJ 3/15/75), The Dinner Party (LJ 6/1/79), and Embroidering Our Heritage (LJ 12/80). Chicago established her international reputation early on with the first book, an indiscreet, youthful autobiography that decried, sometimes in street language, her personal pain as a woman artist within a patriarchal society. In her updated Beyond the Flowers, as in the Dinner Party, expanded for a reopening debut in Los Angeles, she laments the vicissitudes of her personal life and career and the vast amount of money still needed to find a permanent home for her famous/infamous collaborative installation. "The Dinner Party" now appears in standard Western art survey texts. It records 1,038 mythical and historical women of Western civilization, especially honoring 39 of these with place settings on a triangular banquet table 48' per side. Controversy surrounded the imagery of the 39 plates, multicolor, explicit depictions of vaginas as harshly aggressive genitalia that are often criticized as inappropriate stand-ins for famous women. In The Dinner Party, a judiciously edited commemoration of a recent showing of the work, Chicago responds, "What is wrong with that?" Both books are essential for social, political, and feminist art collections.Mary Hamel-Schwulst, Towson State Univ., Md.
Kirkus Reviews
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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140232974
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/1/1997
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.06 (w) x 7.76 (h) x 0.62 (d)

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