Like her fellow Californian, McCracken, Chicago could have continued to make art in the “finish fetish” camp, emphasizing pristine surfaces. Instead, in the early 1970s, she made a radical shift to psychedelic paintings: rippling yonic compositions, for the most part. One significant work from the era, Heaven is for White Men Only (1973), espoused “intersectionality” over a decade before Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term in 1989 (to mean combining gender equity concerns with those of economic and racial equity). The painting features multicolored bars, overlaid in a star shape, against a blue-and-yellow background. “I read a lot of critiques about us relic feminists from the 1970s and how we didn’t understand intersectionality,” Chicago said at the exhibition preview. “Excuse me. This is a series of flesh bars of different colors, suggesting that it is your gender and your color that determine whether you can get into heaven.”
Throughout the 1980s, Chicago translated her developing feminist language to weavings—“painting with thread,” in her estimation. In all, the artist and over 150 collaborators created dozens of artworks depicting the process of childbirth. In tapestries such as Birth Trinity (1983) and Earth Birth (1983), Chicago rendered women as part of the landscape. In each, nude female forms merge with the abstracted ground. The body integrates with nature in celebrations of women’s procreative powers. If the works can feel like overeager doulas, they are also significant achievements in technique. During the preview, Chicago enumerated the alternate techniques for each of the included works—needlepoint, petit point, rug. “Critics are unprepared to write about [the specifics of weaving] because it’s been ignored,” Chicago said. Unfortunately, most art critics can still speak much more knowledgeably about techniques for painting than of craft—which has traditionally been the purview of women, not men (guilty as charged).