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Dinner Party




Back in 1979, the well known feminist artist, Judy Chicago, created a "Dinner Party" installation to recognize 39 mythical and historical women in history. It was very controversial because of the reference to female reproductive anatomy. But the idea that it set out to bring about social change and then had to push through so much rejection in the process because it wasn't polite enough, is in itself quite telling. The center table cloth had 999 names of culturally significant women sewn into it. The. needlework being women's work of course.


The piece shown here, I created with one particular woman in mind. But she is not going to be found in the well known history books. She is local lore. Once I made the piece I realized that it reminded me of place settings on a finely decorated cloth. Bringing my mind to "Dinner Party". Except my guests would be those that mostly stayed out of the way.


Dorcus Ann Elizabeth Williams is my guest of honor. There are two place settings to remember her past but also recognize the precedence of her story in the physical place today. Or maybe even to recognize the glossed over version of her story versus all the hardships we choose to forget.


She was a runaway slave that took up residence in Chagrin Falls, OH in the 1850s. The stories written of her primarily focus on her easy demeanor and pleasant inclusion into the town. Her ability to support herself through gardening and fishing. And the town's ultimate be-friending of this elderly women of color.


Envisioning her going to town dances and fishing in the pond is a polite version of her story. The daisies rain down purity and new beginnings. But the water flows in two directions. Living in solitude because she ran away from an arranged marriage to another slave. Leaving her family behind, she ran, for her life.


Again, the water she found solitude at is familiar ground. It is now a preserve that I've traversed with my family plenty of times since moving here. We walk along the broken remnants of a damn, not knowing until recently who walked there before us. Something Double - in so many ways.

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