Chicago is hopeful that her book will inspire others to change outdated pedagogical practices to be more inclusive of women. But for now, she has the immediate future to contend with. Saturday's A Butterfly for Brooklyn will be her biggest pyrotechnic project to date, and there's still a lot to do. More than 1,000 fireworks must be hand-inserted onto the Prospect Park lawn in the week before the event. She's done two "butterflies" before, one in Oakland in 1974, the second in Pomona in 2012. This will be the first on the East Coast.

"Pomona was kind of practice," Chicago says, laughing. "There will be a much larger number of effects in Brooklyn. We're going to have thousands of individual pieces: saxons, rockets, flares, and strobes. And lots of color! Red, pink, purple, fuchsia, white, silver, and gold."

She's giddy talking about the Butterfly, and rightfully so. It's a momentous event for her, and very symbolic. "Butterflies have come in and out of my work for years, but it's always been a symbol of liberation," she says. "I stopped in '74 because I couldn't get the funding to continue expanding my ideas. I've waited 40 years to work at this level of complexity and scale."

Flower power: Judy Chicago brings explosives to Prospect Park on Saturday.
Donald Woodman
Flower power: Judy Chicago brings explosives to Prospect Park on Saturday.

Location Info


Brooklyn Museum

200 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn, NY 11238

Category: Movie Theaters

Region: Prospect Heights


'Chicago in L.A.: Judy Chicago's Early Work, 1963–1974'
Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn
Through September 28

She smiles. "This is the best birthday present in the world."

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Before The Dinner Party was complete, Judy Chicago was a guest instructor at California State University at Fresno (in its prior identity as Fresno State College) around 1970-1971 (amazing, eh?), as I recall.  She and the wonderful women of the Women and Art and the Women's Studies programs were exceptionally instrumental in raising my consciousness about women and art history in general and also about the wonderful female iconography which is so beautifully present in The Dinner Party.  When The Dinner Party appeared at the San Francisco Museum, a number of us car-pooled from Fresno to see it.  

What I like best about The Dinner Party, beyond its incredibly clever and poignant presentation of lost her-story, is that the combined artistic media are those that are historically women-centered:  lace making, ceramic painting, quilting, other textiles, embroidery, etc.  I think I remember Chicago saying that the women's altar guild of a church assisted her with many of the textile portions.  So much the better for its respect for the unrecognized work and dedication of "church ladies" and, yet, seen from today, its irony.

Thank you, Judy Chicago, for giving us your many layered, multi-dimensional, insightful, beautiful, impeccably researched, poetic, memorable Dinner Party.   It is a feast for the senses and the mind.  And thank you for turning embarrassment and shame about my lady parts into pride and appreciation for their beauty.

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