A lecture I gave at Plymouth College of Art, exploring feminism. An interesting few theorists are approached here, I thought it might be worth sharing...

In 1971 the art historian Linda Nochlin published a groundbreaking essay 'Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?'. In it she investigated the social and economic factors that had prevented talented women from achieving the same status as their male counterparts.

They questioned why men and women are represented so differently. In his 1972 book Ways of Seeing the Marxist critic John Berger had concluded 'Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at'. In other words Western art replicates the unequal relationships already embedded in society. In what is sometimes known as First Wave feminist art, One of the great iconic works of this phase of feminist art is Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party, 1974

The Dinner Party is an installation artwork depicting place settings for 39 mythical and historical famous women.

Each place setting features a table runner embroidered with the woman's name and images or symbols relating to her accomplishments. Many of the plates feature a butterfly- or flowerlike sculpture as a vulva symbol. The Dinner Party celebrates traditional female accomplishments such as textile arts (weaving, embroidery, sewing) and china painting, which have been framed as craft or domestic art as opposed to the more culturally valued, male-dominated fine arts. The white floor of triangular porcelain tiles is inscribed with the names of a further 999 notable women.

"The Dinner Party elevates female achievement in Western history to a heroic scale traditionally reserved for men."