Nancy Spero

Art on This Day
 
Nancy Spero was an American painter and feminist artist. Her expressive work is characterized by its figurative interpretation of socio-political and cultural issues, often directly tackling racism, violence, and sexism in contemporary space. “I've always sought to express a tension in form and meaning in order to achieve a veracity,” she had said of her work. Throughout her practice, she regularly shifted balances of power and developed new feminist narratives in spaces there would otherwise be without.
 
Born on August 24, 1926 in Cleveland, Spero's paintings, sculptures, and installations are firmly embedded in the Modernist tradition, utilizing references like Ancient Egyptian sarcophagi and printmaking techniques to provide critical insight into contemporary life. She studied painting at both the Art Institute of Chicago and at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and married the artist Leon Golub in 1950, with whom she would often collaborate.
 
The couple moved to Paris in 1959, where Spero steeped herself in European existentialism and produced a series of oil paintings she had begun in Chicago on the themes of night, motherhood and eroticism. When they settled in New York City, which became their permanent home, in 1964, the Vietnam War and the social changes it was creating in the United States affected Spero profoundly.
 
Spero was active in the Art Workers Coalition, and in 1969 she joined the splinter group Women Artists in Revolution (WAR), which organized protests against sexist and racist policies in New York City museums. In 1972, she was a founding member of A.I.R. Gallery, the all-women cooperative, originally in SoHo, now in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn. And in the mid-1970s she resolved to focus her art exclusively on images of women, as participants in history and as symbols in art, literature and myth.
 
Her work can be found in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, among others. Spero died in New York on October 18, 2009 at the age of 83.