Car Hood, Judy Chicago, 1964. Sprayed acrylic lacquer on Corvair car hood, 42 15/16 x 49 3/16 x 4 5/16 in. Moderna Museet, Stockholm. Acquired 2007 with means from The Second Museum of our Wishes. © Judy Chicago, 1964. Photo © Donald Woodman

In 1964, while a student in UCLA’s graduate program in painting and sculpture, artist Judy Chicago enrolled in auto-body school—the only woman in a class of 250 men. They were all there to learn how to custom-paint cars with candy-colored lacquer finishes and pinstriped detail work, hallmarks of the hot-rod car culture of Southern California in the 1960s.

Chicago’s Car Hood, featured in the exhibition Crosscurrents in L.A. Painting and Sculpture, 1950–1970, was her final project: an early ‘60s Chevrolet Corvair car hood sprayed with glossy acrylic lacquer. In her 1977 memoir, Through the Flower: My Struggle as a Woman Artist, she described the gendered symbolism of Car Hood: “the vaginal form, penetrated by a phallic arrow, was mounted on the ‘masculine’ hood of a car, a very clear symbol of my state of mind at the time.”

–Audrey Chan

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