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Nancy Spero

Artist 125 Nancy Spero Feminism The female form

Nancy Spero (born 1926 – 2009) was an American visual artist. Her career as both an artist and activist spanned fifty years.

She is known for her continuous engagement with contemporary political, social, and cultural concerns.

Spero chronicled wars and apocalyptic violence as well as articulating visions of ecstatic rebirth and the celebratory cycles of life.

Her complex network of collective and individual voices was a catalyst for the creation of her figurative lexicon representing women from prehistory to the present in epic-scale paintings and collage on paper.

A leading figure in the feminist art movement of the 1960s, Nancy Spero explored female sexuality, suffering, and heroism, as well as the horrors of war, in gouache and ink works on paper.

Spero drew from ancient mythologies and iconographies to produce her burlesque cast of pagan goddesses, Celtic fertility figures, and Amazon warriors, which she pulled from books on ancient art before manipulating and incorporating them into her own drawings and collages.

Her well-known 1966–70 “War” series, produced during the Vietnam years, explored the atrocities of war, a subject Spero revisited in her later career with frieze-like drawings installed around the walls of galleries, depicting masses of screaming figures and helicopters overhead dropping human-shaped bombs.

“I am thinking about the women’s condition, showing victimage or celebratory sexuality in an exaggerated way,” she once said.

"What can one do as an artist when you see all the violence being carried out in the world?" she asked.

Her pieces varied in mood from lacerating and shocking to playful, comical and celebratory, but for most of her career she grappled with that brutally simple, tortuously difficult question: in the face of so much cruelty and suffering in the world, what are an artist's ethical and political responsibilities?

Feminism and Abject are often coupled together in art as women explore ‘the Other’ as means of disrupting Patriarchy.

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