Judy Chicago (July 20, 1939) is an American feminist artist, art educator, and writer known for her large collaborative art installation pieces which examine the role of women in history and culture. Born in Chicago, Illinois, as Judith Cohen, she changed her name after the death of her father and her first husband, choosing to disconnect from the idea of male dominated naming conventions. By the 1970s, Chicago had coined the term "feminist art" and had founded the first feminist art program in the United States. Chicago's work incorporates stereotypical women's artistic skills, such as needlework, counterbalanced with stereotypical male skills such as welding and pyrotechnics. Chicago's masterpiece is The Dinner Party, which is in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum. While at UCLA she became politically active, designing posters for the UCLA chapter NAACP and eventually became its corresponding secretary. She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1962 and was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. She received her Master of Fine Arts from UCLA in 1964. In 1969, the Pasadena Art Museum exhibited a series of Chicago's spherical acrylic plastic dome sculptures and drawings in an "experimental" gallery. Art in America noted that Chicago's work was at the forefront of the conceptual art movement, and the Los Angeles Times described the work as showing no signs of "theoretical New York type art." Chicago would describe her early artwork as minimalist and as her trying to be "one of the boys". During this time, Chicago also began exploring her own sexuality in her work. She created the Pasadena Lifesavers, which was a series of abstract paintings that placed acrylic paint on Plexiglas. Chicago credited Pasadena Lifesavers, as being the major turning point in her work in relation to women's sexuality and representation. She taught the first women's art class in the fall of 1970 at Fresno State College. In spring of 1971 it became the Feminist Art Program, a full 15-unit program, the first in the United States.
Chicago is considered one of the "first-generation feminist artists," a group that also includes Mary Beth Edelson, Carolee Schneeman, and Rachel Rosenthal. They were part of the Feminist art movement in Europe and the United States in the early 1970s to develop feminist writing and art.
In 1972, the program created Womanhouse, alongside Miriam Schapiro, which was the first art exhibition space to display a female point of view in art. With Arlene Raven and Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, Chicago co-founded the Los Angeles Woman's Building in 1973. This housed the Feminist Studio Workshop, described by the founders as “an experimental program in female education in the arts. Chicago was strongly influenced by Gerda Lerner, whose writings convinced her that women who continued to be unaware and ignorant of women's history would continue to struggle independently and collectively. In 1975, Chicago's first book, Through the Flower, was published; it "chronicled her struggles to find her own identity as a woman artist." In 1978, Chicago founded Through the Flower, a non-profit feminist art organization. The organization seeks to educate the public about the importance of art and how it can be used as a tool to emphasize women's achievements.