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Becoming Judy Chicago: A Biography of the Artist

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Born to Jewish radical parents in Chicago in 1939, Judy Cohen grew up to be Judy Chicago — one of the most daring and controversial artists of her generation. Her works, once disparaged and misunderstood by the critics, have become icons of the feminist movement, earning her a place among the most influential artists of her time. Early to reject the modernist move away fro Born to Jewish radical parents in Chicago in 1939, Judy Cohen grew up to be Judy Chicago — one of the most daring and controversial artists of her generation. Her works, once disparaged and misunderstood by the critics, have become icons of the feminist movement, earning her a place among the most influential artists of her time. Early to reject the modernist move away from content in art, Chicago first mastered and then transcended modernism’s formalist austerity, before blazing a trail to the new esthetic now known as postmodern. In Becoming Judy Chicago, Gail Levin gives us a biography of uncommon intimacy and depth, revealing the artist as a person and a woman of extraordinary energy and purpose. Drawing upon Chicago’s personal letters and diaries, her published and unpublished writings, and more than 250 new interviews with her friends, family, admirers, and critics, Becoming Judy Chicago is a richly detailed and moving chronicle of the artist’s unique journey from obscurity to fame, including the story of how she found her audience outside the art establishment. From her early training as a gifted child at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to the groundbreaking Feminist Art Program she created at Fresno State College in 1970–1971, Chicago has never feared to challenge the status quo. At a time when art history textbooks still omitted work by all women, she led her students on a remarkable journey during which they began to examine the meaning of being a woman, to explore women’s traditional crafts, and to compile a history of women artists. For Chicago, no topic has been taboo—from menstruation, pregnancy, and childbirth to men’s abuse of power and the Holocaust. Chicago has revolutionized the way we view art made by and for women. She has fundamentally changed our understanding of women’s contributions to art and to society. Influential and bold, The Dinner Party has become a cultural monument. Becoming Judy Chicago tells the story of a great artist, a leader of the women’s movement, a tireless crusader for equal rights, and a complicated, vital woman who dared to express her own sexuality in her art and demand recognition from a male-dominated culture.


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Born to Jewish radical parents in Chicago in 1939, Judy Cohen grew up to be Judy Chicago — one of the most daring and controversial artists of her generation. Her works, once disparaged and misunderstood by the critics, have become icons of the feminist movement, earning her a place among the most influential artists of her time. Early to reject the modernist move away fro Born to Jewish radical parents in Chicago in 1939, Judy Cohen grew up to be Judy Chicago — one of the most daring and controversial artists of her generation. Her works, once disparaged and misunderstood by the critics, have become icons of the feminist movement, earning her a place among the most influential artists of her time. Early to reject the modernist move away from content in art, Chicago first mastered and then transcended modernism’s formalist austerity, before blazing a trail to the new esthetic now known as postmodern. In Becoming Judy Chicago, Gail Levin gives us a biography of uncommon intimacy and depth, revealing the artist as a person and a woman of extraordinary energy and purpose. Drawing upon Chicago’s personal letters and diaries, her published and unpublished writings, and more than 250 new interviews with her friends, family, admirers, and critics, Becoming Judy Chicago is a richly detailed and moving chronicle of the artist’s unique journey from obscurity to fame, including the story of how she found her audience outside the art establishment. From her early training as a gifted child at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to the groundbreaking Feminist Art Program she created at Fresno State College in 1970–1971, Chicago has never feared to challenge the status quo. At a time when art history textbooks still omitted work by all women, she led her students on a remarkable journey during which they began to examine the meaning of being a woman, to explore women’s traditional crafts, and to compile a history of women artists. For Chicago, no topic has been taboo—from menstruation, pregnancy, and childbirth to men’s abuse of power and the Holocaust. Chicago has revolutionized the way we view art made by and for women. She has fundamentally changed our understanding of women’s contributions to art and to society. Influential and bold, The Dinner Party has become a cultural monument. Becoming Judy Chicago tells the story of a great artist, a leader of the women’s movement, a tireless crusader for equal rights, and a complicated, vital woman who dared to express her own sexuality in her art and demand recognition from a male-dominated culture.

30 review for Becoming Judy Chicago: A Biography of the Artist

  1. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    Man I struggled with this one - so many details, all presented as if they were equally important - it felt like so many tiny rocks dropped on my head. The death of her first husband in a possibly-suicidal car crash is hardly given more time than her process of learning to paint with car enamel. Or maybe my real problem with the book is with its subject: while I admire her determination and guts and fierceness and self-confidence no end, I am not actually a fan of Judy Chicago's art. Actually it Man I struggled with this one - so many details, all presented as if they were equally important - it felt like so many tiny rocks dropped on my head. The death of her first husband in a possibly-suicidal car crash is hardly given more time than her process of learning to paint with car enamel. Or maybe my real problem with the book is with its subject: while I admire her determination and guts and fierceness and self-confidence no end, I am not actually a fan of Judy Chicago's art. Actually it tends to bug the crap out of me. Possibly this is because I am an anti-feminist, un-self-actualized woman with a severely un-raised consciousness. But I like to think I was raised feminist enough to dislike women's art as honestly as I dislike men's - I mean, I don't like male genital art either, nor male art which endlessly interrogates a supposedly-universal gender experience which I don't share, nor didactic Big Issues art by men. That said, Judy Chicago could kick my ass, and I would probably like it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    SO interesting !

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kati

    Like a lot of biographies, this one was occasionally dry. A collection of facts that sometimes overwhelmed the sense of story. But I really enjoyed learning more about Chicago, life devoted to art, and her struggle as a woman artist.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Adriana

    What this artist has withstood and STILL WITHSTANDS is pretty mind-blowing. Illuminating, scrupulously researched book. Perhaps a bit TOO heavy on the detail could have used a tad more analysis and opinion, but that's a minor criticism about a great book. What this artist has withstood and STILL WITHSTANDS is pretty mind-blowing. Illuminating, scrupulously researched book. Perhaps a bit TOO heavy on the detail could have used a tad more analysis and opinion, but that's a minor criticism about a great book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Hey Sailor!

    Unlike the other books on my "never finished" shelve I do intend to finish this book one day. One of the reasons I am not finishing it now is because it is due back at the library soon and so far reading it has been like slowly walking up a mountain, while inspecting every blade of grass. So far this reads like someone's undergraduate art history thesis. There is a lot of "though so-and-so left no record of their life this is what someone who was a similiar age, ethnic make-up, and occupation ha Unlike the other books on my "never finished" shelve I do intend to finish this book one day. One of the reasons I am not finishing it now is because it is due back at the library soon and so far reading it has been like slowly walking up a mountain, while inspecting every blade of grass. So far this reads like someone's undergraduate art history thesis. There is a lot of "though so-and-so left no record of their life this is what someone who was a similiar age, ethnic make-up, and occupation has said about life at that time."

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Allport

    Did not finish it

  7. 5 out of 5

    Amber

    This was a present from Tom. Really great.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Carol Friedman

  9. 5 out of 5

    Blackbird

  10. 4 out of 5

    Juliet C.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bec Manly-Leverton

  12. 4 out of 5

    Catalina

  13. 4 out of 5

    Gloria

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sydney

  15. 5 out of 5

    Willandsarah

  16. 4 out of 5

    Julie Murphy

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

  18. 5 out of 5

    Beverly

  19. 5 out of 5

    MaryEllen Clark

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kat

  21. 5 out of 5

    tmll

  22. 4 out of 5

    Saundra Goldman

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ileana

  24. 4 out of 5

    Liza

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Harris

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lizz

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tracey

  28. 5 out of 5

    Almzi

  29. 5 out of 5

    Melody

  30. 5 out of 5

    P

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