Margery Coffey
Evening Star Over Chicago
Judy Chicago [1937- ]
from An Apple For My Teacher
Oil
36" x 36"
1992

Bursting onto the art scene in a blast of feminism, Chicago shocked the art world with her blatant portrayals of vaginas.  Following this with an epic art installation called "The Dinner Party," Chicago paid homage to the too often forgotten female contributions through the centuries with a series of place settings with a vagina motif reflecting the unique contributions of the specifically honored individual.  She then examined the roots of life with "The Birth Project" a series designed by Chicago, done in tapestry through the cooperation of many needle artists throughout the country.  Chicago has continued her self-studies in a complex series of works examining her Jewish roots by rendering a poignant view of the World War II Holocaust.  http://www.judychicago.com

 Judy Chicago's work blew me away.  I was in art school, the first time I saw her powerful renditions of female genitalia.  I remember walking out of Art History class feeling stunned by the sheer magnitude and intensity of seeing the forbidden addressed so directly.  Georgia O'Keeffe http://www.michelangelo.com/okeeffe had hinted at the feminine sexuality of flowers, but then denied it verbally when accused during times when such directness would never have been accepted.  It gave O'Keeffe the freedom to continue while the seed had been planted.  Chicago picked up the challenge and brought it home to the palette of every woman artist.  When I contemplated how to render the explosion of Chicago with the primal subject matter, I was reminded of a Pawnee tale about their beautiful Goddess Evening Star:

Evening Star was the symbol 
of feminine beauty, 
but, she remained virginal 
because when she was created, 
rattlesnake fangs formed around her vagina to protect her. 

Every suitor that had tried to make love to her 
had died in his effort. 

Finally the god, Morning Star,
the epitome of masculine essence, 
decided to try. 

He picked up a rock 
and knocked the rattlesnake teeth off 
before attempting coitus 
and thus successfully mated 
with Evening Star

 I have always found the imagery fascinating: a vagina surrounded by rattlesnake teeth.  This then, became the basis for my piece on Chicago.

 Searching my natural science files on snakes I came upon pictures of the inside of a pit viper's mouth.  It was O'Keeffe and Chicago all over again!  What freedom!  What fun! 

Yes, Georgia, it really is a rattlesnake's mouth. 

Yes, Judy, it is truly Evening Star.

 

* Honors *

 Evening Star Over Chicago will be used for an educational CD produced for medical students at Dartmouth Medical School. Over the next several years, this CD will be used by approximately 400 students. The CD series title is Sexual Medical Curriculum, and it helps students learn to discuss, diagnose, and treat sexual problems with heterosexual, homosexual, and lesbian patients. One of the goals is to help students feel at ease with issues of sex, and including artwork at various points in the program will help in achieving that. Margery Coffey's paining is an excellent piece of work, and would enhance our graphics considerably.

 


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