Nancy Spero’s Torture of Women is an epic work. Two years in the making, it’s composed of fourteen panels and totals 125 feet. Juxtaposing image and text, Spero collaged imagery drawn from ancient mythology with hand-printed and typewritten words. She collected first person testimony culled from Amnesty International reports, news items on women missing or dead, definitions of torture from the twentieth and thirteenth centuries, as well as the retelling of violent Sumerian and Babylonian creation myths, such as Tiamat being disemboweled by Marduk to create the heavens. Completed in 1976, and published this spring by Siglio Press, Torture of Women bears witness to what is often officially denied or left unspoken. It reveals the presence of the silent consensus, which allows the violence to be state-sanctioned and eternally mythologized.

Nancy Spero (1926—2009) is regarded as a pioneering feminist artist whose work confronts social and political injustice with artistic ingenuity. Unapologetically feminist, anarchic in spirit, and tenaciously political, Spero has received considerable international acclaim with more than a dozen solo museum shows around the world. While her work is now widely recognized, she worked in relative obscurity for almost twenty-five years, resisting the predominating inequality in the art world and beyond. This year Torture of Women was published in its entirety by Siglio Press, a retrospective catalog will be published by Prestel, and a solo exhibition at Centre.

Credit for each image: © Nancy Spero, Torture of Women, Siglio Press, 2010. Photography: National Gallery of Canada.

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