Collaboration ??

The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago

One of the big themes of the feminist art movement of the 1970’s was the idea of collaboration.  In 1979 Judy Chicago did a collaborative installation called “The Dinner Party”.   She worked with a bunch of artist each one making a  place setting for a  dinner  table.  Then the settings were placed on a  triangular table and viewed as one piece.  At the time it was seen as a collaborative installation, one work with many artists.   Over time  Chicago  claimed the piece as her own.   I remember  being disappointed when I read  that she felt, after doing a number of collaborative pieces, that collaboration really didn’t work.  She said that there needs to be a leader and that person is the real artist of the piece.  She compared the process to  how Michelangelo and artists of his time worked.    Michelangelo would have  one or more artists work on certain parts of his paintings or sculptures, the undercoat, or background or carving the basic form, (the grunt work)  and then he would complete the piece.

Collaboration was a  political idea and seemed to offer an alternative to the patriarchal systems found throughout  society.  I loved the idea  and desprately wanted to believe in it and here was one of  my feminist hero saying it didn’t work.  I was disappointed and angry.  I thought she just “sold out”.  But this  attitude most likely had more to do with my own personal authority issues, and although I never did quite sort it out, over time my investment in the idea faded.

But I have experienced collaborative efforts  that have worked.  Mostly in business’ run by women where, although there was an owner or boss, the hierarchy was vague, the work was evenly divided.  Everyone did what they did best and shared the lesser desired jobs, such as cleaning the bathroom

I encountered that kind of collaborative effort today at a meeting with the volunteers for Galley 99.  Diane is definitely the ringleader, but you never get the feeling she wants to be in control.  She easily hands off work to those who will do it best.  And she’s gathered a group of people with diversified skills who, it appears, work well together.

Now we’ve only had a few of meetings, and working with 25 artists can be a challenge, but once again, my belief in collaboration is  renewed.

14 thoughts on “Collaboration ??

  1. An evocative post, and I enjoyed it. I especially loved the idea of my former girlfriend collaborating on a piece of her art with anybody. There would be blood on the table.

    1. If I were collaborating, it wouldn’t be just mine, and I would be willing to open myself up to the process and what’s a little bloodshed anyway for something worthwhile.

    1. Well, it’s not like that, You wouldn’t be helping , but we could do one together. Of course you’d probably want the whole thing to be blue. Collaboration isn’t for everyone.

  2. Glad to hear your belief in collaboration is renewed. If collaboration could be realized in our political lives rather than the present winner-take-all attitude, our leaders could be so much more positively productive. We humans are such disparate individuals, collaboration is essential for the good of us all.

  3. Back in the 1960s the kids in our neighborhood did a collaborative art piece on long paper runners to be placed on dining tables at a local celebration. While I do not remember the celebration, I recall we had a blast creating Art in the block insets. Yielded groovy results and this work by Chicago reminds me of that summer project.

  4. I would love to have see the Collaboration piece, even tho I don’t agree with her taking full credit for it. Sounds like your association with Gallery 99 is much better! I wish I lived closer so I could come and see all the work in person.

    Jon said he would consider coming to the Brockport Library. I hope it really happens…the Library is very interested.

  5. Isn’t it great when your faith in a process is restored? I hope it works out well, but it appears to have all the ingredients in place and I am so enjoying hearing of the workings of a small town and the wonderful people who settle in such places. Good luck! I hope the storm does not leave you all too battered. Peg

  6. I haven’t experienced any collaborative efforts in an artist setting such as a gallery. It might have happened in high school when I was working on a giant canvas where others would dip their brushes in fabric paint then flick some color over the stretched fabric. I’ve not enjoyed any thing like that since then. Collaboration as a writer never really worked out for me. Sounds like for you Maria Gallery 99 is working. It’s just too bad there isn’t any thing like that down here.

  7. Okay, so I’ve offered Maria a photograph, and she can take it from there. Some collaborative art we are trying together for Gallery 99. Put the photo up on my site. “Last light, Rupert Mountain.Collaborative Art.

  8. That’s probably true Maria about collaboration being easier for high schoolers. As adults, egos get in the way of true collaborations.

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