Judy Chicago’s ‘A Butterfly in Brooklyn’

Fire-artworks: Feminist fireworks show to light up Prospect Park

The Brooklyn Paper
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This art will go off with a bang!

On April 26, iconic feminist artist Judy Chicago will put on a giant 20-minute fireworks show at Prospect Park. The work is based on her installation “The Dinner Party” — a triangular table with place settings for 39 famous women — which serves as the centerpiece of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art in the Brooklyn Museum. The performance will be a gift from her to all onlookers, the artist said.

“It is a present from me to the people of Brooklyn,” she said. “It’s like I’m having the opportunity to have one of the tales of ‘The Dinner Party’ fly out of the museum into Prospect Park.”

“A Butterfly in Brooklyn” will depict the life-cycle of a massive butterfly, and will include thousands of LED lights. The image of the winged creature is attractive because it is a historical symbol for a goddess, said Chicago, adding that her male professors at the University of California led her to repress her earlier artistic pieces that included the insects.

This is not Chicago’s first foray into explosive artwork. The artist put on a series of pyrotechnical performances called “Atmospheres” along the California coast and in Oregon from 1968 to 1974, including her final show in the series, “A Butterfly for Oakland.” But she said she stopped using fireworks after she was sexually harassed while training to become a pyrotechnician — or fireworks technician.

Decades later, in 2011, Chicago picked up where she left off with “A Butterfly for Pomona,” another full-scale fireworks show on the football field of Pomona College in California, also featuring a massive butterfly. Chicago said the performance reinvigorated her love for the art form, and just a few years later, the Brooklyn Museum asked her to put on her first East Coast explosive grandstand right in its neighboring park

Working on the performance piece has been a rigorous process, she said, but one that should have a visually stunning payoff.

“I’m having the chance to work at a scale and level of complexity that I only dreamed of,” she said. “I’ve always thought big.”

“A Butterfly in Brooklyn” at Prospect Park, north end of Long Meadow (Union Street between Flatbush Avenue and Prospect Park West, April 26 at 7:30 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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