On Dinner Parties, Queens, and Controversy

Tonight is President Bush's first white-tie State Dinner. Queen Elizabeth II is the guest of honor. They'll eat five courses on the golden Clinton Service created by Lenox to mark the bicentennial of the White House.

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We weren't among the guests invited for the president's five course meal, but this weekend we did make it to another dinner party with a different Queen Elizabeth in attendance: Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party, now on exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. The Dinner Party, created from 1974 to 1979, is a huge banquet room with 39 unique place settings, each honoring a woman from history.

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Queen Elizabeth I has a seat at Judy Chicago's table, along with Virginia Woolf and Sacajawea. Chicago's party, like the president's, is controversial.

Some see Chicago's Dinner Party as "bad art" ("Chicago's plates are the Hummel figurines of the feminist movement," says Maureen Mullarkey), while others see it as a milestone in contemporary and feminist art.

We see both dinner parties as calls to get people together around the table. As we walked the hushed room at the Brooklyn Museum on Saturday night looking at Chicago's table set for 39 women, we heard people whispering about who they'd like to invite for dinner. President Bush's bash for 134 must have some people thinking the same thing.

We say get your dinner party started -- on your roof, around a picnic basket in the party, or even in a dining room if you have one. And let us know how we can help.

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