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Atmospheres/Fireworks/Dry Ice

Judy Chicago first turned to pyrotechnics in the late 1960s in an effort to feminize the atmosphere at a time when the southern California art scene was almost entirely male dominated. Between 1968 and 1974, Judy Chicago executed a series of increasingly complex fireworks pieces that involved site specific performances around California. Some of these works, titled Atmospheres, were intended to transform and soften the landscape, introducing a feminine impulse into the environment, while others focused on re-creating early women-centered activities like the kindling of fire or the worship of goddess figures. Her final Atmosphere of that period took place in 1974 near the Oakland Museum, which commissioned the work. A Butterfly for Oakland configured a 200 foot butterfly that went through a 17 minute life cycle, slowly coming into view, erupting into color, then gradually – as the sun faded – becoming extinguished. In 2012, Chicago staged A Butterfly for Pomona, her first fireworks piece since A Butterfly for Oakland in 1974. Commissioned by the Pomona College Art Museum, and working with Pyro Spectaculars, Chicago lit up the Pomona College football field with A Butterfly for Pomona. In 2015, Chicago created the fireworks piece A Butterfly for Brooklyn in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, as the outdoor component of the exhibition Chicago in LA at the Brooklyn Museum. The work utilized one of her most well-known artistic motifs: the butterfly. “A Butterfly for Brooklyn is the most complex fireworks project that I’ve ever done and was created at a level that I could only dream of in 1974,” says Chicago.

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