Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Art and Art History

Major Professor

Elisabeth Fraser, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Elizabeth Hirsh, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Margaret Miller, M.A.


Judy Chicago, art exhibition, museum studies, feminist art, essentialism


Rethinking the monumental suggests not only a reconsideration of Judy

Chicago’s controversial installation The

Dinner Party (1979)--

as displayed in the group

feminist art exhibition,

Sexual Politics: Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party in Feminist Art


--but also refers to an unfixing of the monumental position of power afforded the

museum and a re-invigoration of the debate in feminist visual art regarding the use of the

female body. I use the

Sexual Politics exhibition,

curated by Amelia Jones for the

University of California at Los Angeles Armand Hammer Museum and Cultural Center

(1996) as an indicator of the museum as feminist space.

Sexual Politics’


reception by both the feminist community and mainstream critics provokes discussion for

how the exhibition’s contradictions are part of the exhibition’s success.

I uncover that the museum has always been an important factor in the validity of

The Dinner Party.

Nevertheless, neither the curator nor critic (exemplified by the

Christopher Knight’s 1996 review) of

Sexual Politics

goes far enough to exploit the

museum factor as part of their re-readings of

The Dinner Party


I note that the exhibition backdrop, the contemporary art museum, is

experiencing a crisis in representation in regards to its audience. Guiding institutional

models originally identified by Duncan Cameron (1971) in essay

Museum: Temple or


prove suspect as the museum embarks toward a more self-reflexive sense of

power in the postmodern museum.

Janet Wolff’s essay

Reinstating Corporeality

serves as a point of departure from

which to explore the action of museum exhibition as the site suitable for corporeal

reinstatement for feminism. Exhibition elements of artwork, audience and environment

act as partners in a metaphoric postmodern dance. This view supposes foreclosure on

the debate of essentialism in regards to the corporeal in the feminist visual arts through

themes and criticisms associated with

The Dinner Party.

Jones sets out in her exhibition

to contribute to the historicization of feminist art. This thesis looks at that initiative and

suggests the museum exhibition, as the medium for this historicization, is an integral

element to the success of the process.