Around the same time that feminist artists were beginning to study mediums and materials associated with “women’s work”—china painting, quilts, sewing, embroidery—they were also searching for a clearly readable means of expressing female subjectivity in abstract forms, which often resembled eggs, spheres, caves, or other round forms. This vaginal or “central core” imagery, as it came to be called, was another important development in 1970s feminist art, one that is integral to understanding The Dinner Party .
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Representing the theoretical and methodological diversity of feminist studies in art history from its second decade, Broude and Garrard both identify the effects of “postmodernist” theories of authorship, the gaze and the social construction of gender in art history, while contesting the tendency to polarize feminist scholarship between modern and postmodern, essentialist and constructivist, traditionalist and theoretical. They advocate incremental change in the discipline and argue for a continuing acknowledgement of the importance of studies of women’s authorship in art.