Automania

Flight Hood

Judy Chicago. Flight Hood. 1965-2011

Judy Chicago: Hi, I'm Judy Chicago and I want to tell you about Flight Hood.

The imagery involves a nascent butterfly form, which is trying to emerge from the shadow of death symbolized by two crosses. And the upper part of the painting references two deaths. One, the unresolved death of my father when I was 13, which was something that was never discussed in our family. And then ten years later, the death of my first husband in an auto accident. And I was grappling with grief and the paintings helped me make sense of what I had experienced.

This work is based on a series of paintings that my painting instructors hated. I was prone to using ivories and turquoises and magentas, and they didn't like my colors and they didn't like my forms. And I ended up destroying them, but not before I had transferred the patterns to car hoods. I understood, intuitively, that this imagery that my male painting teachers had rejected because it was so female centered, that there was something subversive about mounting it on the most masculine of forms—a car hood.

The summer after I graduated from UCLA, I went to auto body school. I was the only woman among 250 men. And it was really a transformative experience because I learned this incredible reverence for craft.

The car hood was sprayed with lacquer on a primed and sanded surface, and then I coated it with layer after layer of clear. It was the visual and sumptuous nature of car culture that interested me. I was fascinated by the fusion of color and surface, which I think became a real hallmark of my work and it all traces back to my time at auto body school.

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