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Becoming Judy Chicago: A Biography of the…
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Becoming Judy Chicago: A Biography of the Artist

by Gail Levin

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Becoming Judy Chicago by Gail Levin is a thorough look at the artist's life and career to date. It begins like most comprehensive biographies with a chapter on her parents' story and then continues, in detail, throughout Judy Chicago's life. However, it is the in-depth coverage of Judy Chicago's artistic process that most interested me.

Gail Levin has researched this book to the ends of the earth. I've seldom read a more thoroughly researched biography. Gail Levin has interviewed everyone involved in Judy Chicago's life and work, whether they were ultimately for or against Chicago. She has also read all of the reviews, and I do mean all of them. Her bibliography is exhaustive.

All of this research has paid off handsomely. We are treated to an in-depth look at how Judy Chicago came up with her projects, predominately The Dinner Party, and at how Chicago's ideas took shape through interaction with a large team of women and some men to produce one of the iconic artworks of the twentieth century.

CJ was fortunate enough to see The Dinner Party when it was shown at the SFMOMA and he remains impressed with it to this day. CJ usually cannot stand anything painted after Cezanne. I'm planning on taking it in at the Brooklyn Museum of Art next time we are in New York.

I was struck with how passionate the response was to The Dinner Party. According to Gail Levin, The Dinner Party made money for the exhibitors just about everywhere it was shown. CJ reports that he had to wait in line 90 minutes to see it. This was one of the shorter waits according to Levin. The people who saw it often reported it as a life-changing event. Many of the women who saw The Dinner Party went on to work with Judy Chicago on the Birth project and the Holocaust project.

The critics were just a passionate if not as appreciative. Gail Levin quotes many of them in Becoming Judy Chicago. Their reaction is so vitriolic that the reader can't help but wonder why? Twenty years after its first viewing The Dinner Party can still provoke a strong reaction, but the critics Levin quotes react like Chicago was trying to bring about the downfall of mankind. I found this part of the book to be the most interesting. It very clearly illustrates the sexist bias in the art world that existed as late as the 1980's and continues to largely influence the art market today.

I do not believe this book is for everyone. Gail Levin does keep the pace moving and Chicago's life is interesting enough to make the reader want to know more. But the book is an exhaustive biography, nothing is left out. This usually makes for a bit of a long read in my experience. Be willing to skip some parts to get to the stuff you really enjoy is my advice. There is a great deal in Becoming Judy Chicago that the reader will find enlightening and rewarding. ( )
  CBJames | Aug 13, 2009 |
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When perpetual bachelor Gunder Jomann goes to India for two weeks and comes home married, the Norwegian town of Elvestad is stunned. On the day the Indian bride is supposed to arrive, the battered body of a woman is found in a meadow on the outskirts of town. None of the "good people of Elvestad" can believe that anyone among them would be capable of such a brutal murder. But in his quiet, formal way, Inspector Konrad Sejer understands that good people can commit atrocious deeds, and that no one is altogether innocent--including the cafe owner who knows too much, the girl who wants to be a chief witness, and the bodybuilder with no outlet for his terrible strength. Another psychological mystery from one of Europe's most successful crime writers.--From publisher description.… (more)

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