Sally Deskins

Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



College of Creative Arts


Graphic Design

Committee Chair

Kristina Olson

Committee Co-Chair

Melissa Bingmann

Committee Member

Rhonda Reymond

Committee Member

JBernard Schultz


Research on Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party, (1974-79; completed with the assistance of more than 400 volunteers), is abundant and generally focuses on the monumental table of thirty-nine place settings acknowledging the contribution of women throughout Western history. Scholars have examined, praised and criticized the installation from various feminist and formal aesthetic perspectives. By contrast, this thesis considers what has essentially been overlooked until now, Judy Chicago's curatorial framework for the entire The Dinner Party exhibition experience. Using my own interviews with the artist, team members, and contemporary curators, as well as consulting the artist's installation manuals from Harvard University Archives, and examining the reception of the curation, I highlight the essential curatorial features that made The Dinner Party such an international phenomenon. The artist's curatorial elements were research-oriented, inclusive and activist-leaning with interactive, multi-media structures to achieve her feminist message. Considering The Dinner Party's current installation at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, my thesis argues that Chicago's successful yet overlooked methods offer the most proactive, critical and approachable curatorial presentation. The current installation that has been stripped of these curatorial elements, while perhaps institutionally practical, compromises much of the message and feminist intent. This study contributes to the field by focusing on this notable exhibition, providing discourse into Chicago's curating and offering considerations for contemporary curating practice, with the goal of contributing to the growing area of curatorial research focused on feminist artists and curatorial projects.