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Judy Chicago’s Smoke Bodies from Women and Smoke, 1972, performed in the California Desert. © Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Nevada Museum of Art Acquires Judy Chicago’s Entire Fireworks Archive

The Nevada Museum of Art will soon house thousands of photographs, films, drawings, maps, and maquettes from feminist artist Judy Chicago’s extensive body of work with dry ice, colored smoke, and fireworks. The institution acquired the entire archive of material related to Chicago’s iconic site-specific fireworks, which she began creating in the deserts of the American West in 1967, and is committed to making it accessible online through the Judy Chicago Research Portal.

The works, which were made using smoke machines and pyrotechnics and often featured nude performers, were a response to the male-dominated Land art movement of the 1960s. Commenting on her mission to temporarily alter her surrounding landscape by releasing colored smoke into the atmosphere, Chicago said: “What I was doing was liberating my color and just letting it loose in the air. It softened everything. There was a moment when the smoke began to clear, but a haze lingered. And the whole world was feminized—if only for a moment.”

William L. Fox, director of the museum’s Center for Art + Environment—a focused research library with archive collections from more than one thousand artists and organizations, including Lita Albuquerque, Walter De Maria, Trevor Paglen, and Ugo Rondinone—said: “Judy Chicago’s archive builds upon one of the core strengths of the center, and at the same time opens up a new vista for thinking about and collecting Land Art archives. Women were creating new works with an entirely different and unexpected vocabulary than their male counterparts, and it is one that has not yet been fully recorded in history books.”

A sampling of the archive will be featured in the exhibition “On Fire: Judy Chicago’s Atmospheres Archive,” which will be on view from October 16, 2021 through April 17, 2022 and will set the stage for the institution’s upcoming environmental conference, scheduled for next fall. Chicago’s archives can also be found at Penn State University, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Arthur, and Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study’s Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America.

Judy Chicago, On Fire at 80, 2019. © Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo © Donald Woodman/ARS, New York.