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Roots of “The Dinner Party”: History in the Making

October 20, 2017–March 4, 2018

Judy Chicago Designing the Entry Banners for “The Dinner Party,1978. Courtesy of Through the Flower Archive

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here are some questions visitors asked us during their visit to this exhibition.

On your next visit, use our app to ask your own questions, get info, and share insights by texting with our team of knowledgeable and friendly experts.

In the "Photo Acknowledgement Panels" of "The Dinner Party," is the Elizabeth Eakins shown, the now textile designer?
She does appear to be the same Elizabeth Eakins! Many of "The Dinner Party" collaborators were specialists in various forms of textile and ceramic techniques.
What are these?
These test plates and other objects that reveal the process of creating "The Dinner Party" are so fascinating to see! Because china paints and glazes don't appear the same when they are wet as when they are fired, tests like these were an essential step. This is how Chicago knew what color her work would turn out to be. Nearby, you can even see that Chicago wrote a pamphlet on the China painting technique.
These ”test-plates” were the only actual practice or were they originally supposed to be part of the exhibition?
As beautiful as they are, they really are just "test plates." They functioned as a reference so that Chicago and her assistants knew what color the paints and glazes would be when they were fired.
What is this?
This is a test plate for the Sojourner Truth place setting in Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party. Chicago went through a lot of trial and error when creating the dimensional, carefully painted plates. She made many plates as tests of her techniques before creating the final plate that you can see in the installation.
Ahh, what’s a test plate?
This is basically like a sketch in preparation for the final work!
Cool thanks!
What was the selection process? Why did they pick Petronilla de Meath instead of Joan of Arc?
Interesting thought! According to Chicago, the criteria were as follows:
1) Did the woman make a significant contribution to society? 2) Did she attempt to improve conditions for women? 3) Did her life illuminate an aspect of women's experience or provide a model for the future?
I would imagine that she chose Petronilla instead because even in the 1970s, many people already knew of Joan of Arc and Chicago wanted bring attention to another historical figure.
Mmm, I understand. Thanks for answering!
Dime más.
Estos platos para prueba  dan una idea del proceso de ensayo y error que siguió Judy Chicago para la creación de “The Dinner Party.”
La técnica que aquí se muestra se llama "china painting." Chicago estudió la técnica durante dos años.
Las arcillas, pinturas, y esmaltes pueden cambiar de color en el horno. Es por eso que fue necesario probar todas las combinaciones para así saber cómo lograr el producto final deseado.
Tell me more.
These "Photo Acknowledgement Panels" show the people who worked on "The Dinner Party" under the direction of Judy Chicago. The collaborators, who contributed to the project in research and creation, helped Chicago primarily in the last four years of effort to finish the work.
Why does the plate labeling refer to “gold colors”? I see only red.
Great question! Chicago was experimenting with different glazing techniques, including single glazing (as seen here, with the red) and iridescent lustres.
The lustre glazes were applied in two steps. First the base color was applied and fired, followed by a second glaze and firing.
This plate is the first step in that lustre process. She never applied the second glaze to this particular piece!
Thank you.
I would like to know more about these plates please!
These plates are test plates that were made in preparation for "The Dinner Party." This set of plates was made over the course of six months, and was used to test colors and glazes as Chicago and her volunteers prepared for the final ceramics.
Is china paint different than ceramic glaze? What are the similarities, if any?
China painting is a type of over-glaze decoration. The colors are made from glassy enamels that are applied to a previously glazed and fired object. After applying the "china painting," the object is fired again but at a much lower temperature than the initial firing.
The enamels used in china painting are similar to glazes—they both include silica to create a glass-like finish.
Wow, cool. Thank you!