Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Art and Art History

Major Professor

Elisabeth Fraser, Ph.D.

Committee Member

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 History--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’ controversial 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 Forum? prove suspect as the museum embarks toward a more self-reflexive sense of power in the postmodern museum. vi 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.