Fashion Today

Judy Chicago: A Feminist Icon’s Unconventional Take on Aging and Beauty

In a world painted with vivid colors, artist Judy Chicago stands out. She views the world through colored lenses, quite literally. Her eyewear varies, from lilac to pink, many shades of blue, but never the standard clear. "Actually, the world doesn’t look different with these on," she shares during a Zoom call from her New Mexico studio, donning a deep hue of purpley-navy glasses. "I’ve worn glasses my entire life, and since color is the hallmark of my work, this just made sense."

Judy Chicago’s Vibrant Career

While discussing her career, Judy Chicago sits in front of a photograph of her "Atmospheres" air-and-smoke sculpture, a part of her 2021 exhibition at San Francisco’s de Young Museum. More recently, her solo retrospective, aptly named "Judy Chicago: Her Story," opened at the New Museum in New York City. This extensive three-floor exhibit explores Chicago’s remarkable six-decade, multi-medium, and always colorful career, one she describes as being filled with "gratuitous beauty."

A Shift in Perspective

Judy Chicago’s outlook on fashion, beauty, and makeup has undergone a profound transformation over the years. She once held the standard feminist view that these aspects were oppressive to women. However, her entire perspective shifted dramatically due to her collaboration with Dior.

In 2019, Chicago embarked on a collaboration with Dior’s creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri. This collaboration brought to life an unrealized project from the ’70s named "The Female Divine" (2020) for the Couture spring 2020 show. She recalls her initial thoughts, "I remember sitting in my first couture show thinking, ‘If I’m a serious artist, what would I have to do with couture?’" But Chiuri’s unwavering focus on women, evident in her history of hiring female photographers and women from around the world to support them, helped Chicago find her place. She discovered that art, fashion, and beauty not only intersect but genuinely belong together.

The Evolution of Beauty

Chicago’s views on beauty have evolved with age. She admits, "When I was young, I didn’t have a beauty routine. I never even thought about it! All I was focused on was working in my studio, sometimes 60 hours a week. But the older you get, it becomes more about patching things back to the way they were. Patch, patch, patch."

Her current beauty routine includes skincare products from Biodroga, Yon-Ka, and Dermalogica, spritzes of Dior’s iconic Poison perfume, and M.A.C.’s matte lipstick in the shade Smoked Purple. She emphasizes the importance of lipstick, especially in her older years, as it makes her feel bright.

Empowering Women’s Choices

At her New Museum exhibit, Judy Chicago continues to ask a vital question from "The Female Divine": "What if women ruled the world?" She passionately declares that if women want a spritz of this or a swipe of that, so be it. Her journey from a standard feminist view to one that embraces the intersection of art, fashion, and beauty provides a compelling perspective on the evolving definition of feminism and self-expression.

In "Feminist Icon Judy Chicago on Aging, Makeup, and ‘Gratuitous Beauty’," Chicago’s story serves as a testament to the power of artistic collaboration and the evolving nature of beauty, challenging traditional feminist notions and empowering women to make choices that feel right for them.

The Evolution of Feminist Themes in Judy Chicago’s Work

Why is Judy Chicago a feminist?

Judy Chicago’s feminism is deeply rooted in her artistic journey. In the early 1970s, she embarked on a mission to blend her abstract iconography with an unwavering commitment to openly share her experiences as a woman, a feat previously unattainable during her college years. This pivotal era marked an expansion of the central-core imagery that has since become emblematic of her work. Through her art, Chicago broke boundaries and used her platform to address gender disparities and advocate for women’s voices, making her a resounding feminist icon.

What is Judy Chicago’s art style?

Judy Chicago’s artistic evolution is marked by distinct phases. In her early work, she adhered to a Minimalist style, and her contributions were notable in the landmark Primary Structures exhibition of 1966 at The Jewish Museum in New York. However, her art took a significant turn towards feminist content in the late 1960s. Concurrent with this transformation, she adopted the surname "Chicago," a nod to her birthplace. This shift in both style and nomenclature signified a pivotal moment in her career, as she delved into the realm of feminist art, setting the stage for her iconic contributions to the movement.

What are some interesting details about Judy Chicago?

Judy Chicago’s impact in the world of art extends beyond her creative works. In 1970, she established the groundbreaking Feminist Art Program at California State University in Fresno, marking the inception of the first program of its kind in the United States. Later, in collaboration with Miriam Schapiro (1923–2015), she relocated the program to the California Institute of the Arts, where they guided 21 students in the development of "Womanhouse" in 1971. These initiatives not only underscore her pioneering role in feminist art but also highlight her commitment to fostering the next generation of artists and challenging traditional artistic paradigms.

Why is Judy Chicago important?

Judy Chicago’s significance lies in her pioneering role in the world of art. Throughout her often tumultuous, challenging, and sometimes controversial career, she blazed a trail for Feminist art and art education. Notably, she initiated a groundbreaking program for women at California State University, Fresno, which laid the foundation for her unique pedagogical approach. This approach has continued to evolve over the years, solidifying Chicago’s importance as a transformative figure in the world of art and education.

Is Chicago a feminist play?

"Chicago" is a musical that predominantly weaves women’s stories through performances by female characters. As a result, it exudes the essence of an empowering and spirited journey through one of the most audacious decades in American history.

What is the lead female role in Chicago?

In the cast of "Chicago," the lead female role is portrayed by Renée Zellweger, who takes on the character of Roxie Hart. Roxie is a housewife with aspirations of becoming a vaudevillian. Her journey unfolds as she is arrested for the murder of her deceitful paramour, Fred Casely.

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