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Judy Chicago’s 1974 Oakland Butterfly Celebrated at OMCA

This year, Judy Chicago, one of the most acclaimed feminist artists, is turning 75. And the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) is celebrating the occasion in a new exhibition.

The exhibition, Judy Chicago: A Butterfly for Oakland is a feature of digitized photographs of the artist’s 1974 site-specific installation on the western shores of Lake Merritt, presented for the very first time. These photographs document the event, where Chicago put together a pyrotechnic display, which was a combination of commercial fireworks and road flares, forming a shape of a butterfly. Then, the display was lit by hand, resulting in a “painting” of colored smoke, with photographers capturing the seventeen-minute moment, which symbolized transformation, flight, and freedom.

The installation was part of the exhibition Public Sculpture, Urban Environment, which featured several large sculptures on and around the OMCA museum campus. OMCA joins other institutions celebrating Judy Chicago’s milestone birthday, including the Brooklyn Art Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington D.C. A Butterfly for Oakland will be on view at OMCA’s Media Space 1, located in the Gallery of California Art until November 30th. Log on to for more information, and to see a few samples of the exhibition.

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