Becoming Judy Chicago

From April ’07 Spotlight:“Judy Gerowitz hereby divests herself of all names imposed upon her through male social dominance and freely chooses her own name JUDY CHICAGO,” proclaimed the woman born Judith Sylvia Cohen on July 20, 1939 at Michael Reese Hospital. As Gail Levin tells us in her new book Becoming Judy Chicago: A Biography of the Artist: “She chose the name Chicago [in 1970] because friends tended to identify her as ‘Judy from Chicago’.” (“I’m a nice Jewish girl from Chicago… I couldn’t avoid it. I had a very distinct Chicago accent.”)

Many of us can remember trekking down to the then raw South Loop when The Dinner Party was on display at the Franklin Building (from September 1981 through January 1982). According to Jean Hunt, one of the local coordinators, over seventy thousand people came to see it, making ours one of the most successful showings in the country. “We even made money,” says Hunt. “It was a real testament to the strength of Chicago’s woman’s movement.” The Dinner Party, now part of the permanent collection at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, made Judy Chicago a force to be reckoned with ever after.

Levin, a professor of Art History, American Studies, and Women Studies at Baruch College and the Graduate Center of CUNY, will read from her new book on Sunday April 15 at Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies. Becoming Judy Chicago is Levin’s seventeenth book as principal author, editor, and/or contributor. Her articles have appeared in numerous professional journals (including the Journal of Modern Jewish Studies and the Woman’s Art Journal) as well as mainstream publications like The New York Times, London Review of Books, Los Angeles Times, and Smithsonian Magazine.

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