Nancy Spero


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American artist, born in Cleveland, Ohio, known for her political and feminist work. This often takes the form of long scrolls using a mix of images and words to protest at political and gender repression. An example is Torture of Women (1976). Consisting of fourteen paper panels it extends for 133 feet if displayed continuously. It juxtaposes accounts from Amnesty International of torture of women with historical myths which ‘delineate a relentless history of violence and oppression against women’ (Susan Jenkins). From 1983 onwards Spero began using the image of the Sheela-na-gig, an ‘exuberantly vaginal female figure’ based on a type of lewd 12th-century carving found in English and Irish churches. Spero was also a political activist: as a member of the Art Workers Coalition, she was involved in protests against discriminatory practices in the art world. She was married to the painter Leon Golub.

Further Reading

J. Withers, ‘Nancy Spero's American-born Sheela-na-gig’, Feminist Studies (spring 1991)

Subjects: Art.

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