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University of Houston - Clear Lake
UH-Clear Lake presents historical ‘Setting the Table’ exhibit
News Release
Thursday, January 27, 2011

HOUSTON — Relive an exciting time in the history of University of Houston-Clear Lake or experience the excitement for the first time as the university’s Women’s Studies and Art and Design programs host “Setting the Table,” an exhibition that honors the 1980 presentation of the groundbreaking feminist art exhibition “The Dinner Party” by Judy Chicago. “Setting the Table,” on loan from ACA Galleries in New York, is scheduled for display Feb. 25 – April 30 in the university’s Alfred R. Neumann Library, 2700 Bay Area Blvd., Houston, 77058.

Simultaneously, attendees will get an opportunity to experience artists Margarita Cabrera’s 2010 video documentary titled “Space in Between,” a collaborative project involving sewing and embroidery workshops for women across U.S. border cultures.

“Setting the Table” will illustrate the behind-the-scenes creation of Chicago’s “The Dinner Party,” first displayed at UH-Clear Lake March 9, 1980 during Women’s Week, which drew 36,000 viewers to the debut.

Chicago’s original work, “The Dinner Party,” comprises 39 place settings on a triangular table that includes embroidered table runners, gold chalices and utensils, and painted porcelain plates honoring an important woman from history and each woman’s unique personality. Inscribed in gold luster on the white tile floor are the names of another 999 mythical and historical women. It has been seen by more than one million viewers at venues in six countries.

Chicago is an artist, author, feminist and educator with a career spanning four decades.

The commemorative “Setting the Table” display will include a themed collection of drawings, test plates and maquettes, or rough draft models of unfinished work, from original installation’s design. With a theme of process and collaboration, the exhibit will showcase the historical work’s design process from start, in 1974, to finish, in 1979.

“‘Setting the Table’ shows how the work was initially conceived, which serves as a metaphor for the conception of feminist art overall,” said UH-Clear Lake Assistant Professor of Art and Design Jane Chin Davidson. “The concept of ‘process’ works well for celebrating the 30th anniversary of ‘The Dinner Party’ shown at UH-Clear Lake in 1980 because our university was part of the process of history in advocating for feminist art during its formation.”

Hundreds of volunteers worked over the six-year period to complete Chicago’s elaborate needlework, sculpture, ceramics and china painting for “The Dinner Party.”

“‘The Dinner Party’ was an artistic event, but it was also a spiritual, even transforming, event,” said Cal Cannon, who served as the dean of the university’s School of Human Sciences and Humanities and, while serving as dean, helped bring the original exhibit to the campus.

UH-Clear Lake was one of just three venues to offer this important event considered one of the most provocative and controversial feminist works of its time. Now permanently housed at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, “The Dinner Party” played a critical role in the history of women artists. The exhibit is also Chicago’s best known work.

An opening reception for “Setting the Table” is scheduled for Feb. 25, 5 – 7 p.m., in the Alfred R. Neumann Library. Speakers at the opening will include UH-Clear Lake Professor Emeritus of Literature Gretchen Mieszkowski and Professor of Fine Arts Nick de Vries.

On March 8, 5:30 – 7 p.m., in the Bayou Building, Garden Room, the university will host, “Roundtable: Feminist Processes in Women’s Studies” with convener UH-Clear Lake Assistant Professor in Humanities Shreerekha Subramanian and noted area participants. Scheduled to participate are Sanna Karkulehto, postdoctoral fellow, Rice University; Sima Shakhsari, postdoctoral fellow, University of Houston; Bissan Rafe, student, University of Houston; and Jennifer Tyburczy, postdoctoral fellow, Rice University.

“Dialogues: Mary Ross Taylor and Margarita Cabrera” is scheduled for April 8, 1 – 4 p.m., Bayou Building, Garden Room and will feature a conversation with one of the original organizers of the 1980 UH-Clear Lake/ Judy Chicago “Dinner Party” exhibit Mary Ross Taylor; “Space in Between” artist Margarita Cabrera; UH-Clear Lake Associate Professor of Anthropology Christine Kovic; and UH-Clear Lake Assistant Professor of Art and Design Jane Chin Davidson.

Finally, a reception on April 30, 6 – 8 p.m., in the Alfred R. Neumann Library will provide an opportunity to meet the former Dean of the School of Humanities and Human Sciences Cal Cannon, who brought “The Dinner Party” to the campus in 1980.

The university is currently seeking volunteers from the first exhibition to share their stories and be part of this year’s event. Volunteers or anyone with information about how to locate a volunteer may call 281-283-3432 or e-mail The project is supported in part by a grant from the City of Houston Mayor’s Special Initiative Program of the Houston Arts Alliance, Houston Endowment, Michael and Ann Wismer-Landolt, Ben Mieszkuc, Gina T. Rizzo, M.D., UH-Clear Lake’s Office of the Provost and UH-Clear Lake’s School of Human Sciences and Humanities.                           

For more information on “The Dinner Party” visit the Brooklyn Museum website at To find out more about the “Setting the Table” and “Space in Between” exhibit, call Assistant Professor of Art and Design Jane Chin Davidson, 281-283-3432.

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